Michele Stillinger

Michele Stillinger

email: stil0005 at umn.edu

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My current research focus is geoarchaeology: applying traditional geological analysis techniques to answer archaeological questions of time, resource use, and material technology. My dissertation research uses the geological techniques of paleomagnetism and applies them to archaeological materials. The history of the variation in the Earth's ancient magnetic field direction and strength is recorded in heat-treated materials containing magnetic minerals, such as rocks, soils and sediments, or anthropological objects like pottery, brick and metal slags. For example, when a ceramic object is fired to a high temperature and then cooled, the constituent magnetic particles in the clay record the strength of the Earth's field at that moment in time. This recording can be preserved for millions of years and can be measured using a superconducting rock magnetometer. Detailed records of the Earth's changing field strength and direction for a particular region can be combined to construct a regionally specific reference curve of field variability through time. These reference curves can then be used as a supplementary dating method at archaeological sites and can also be used to help model the geodynamo.


Additional areas of interest include:  geophysical surveying, FTIR analysis of sediments, human skeletal analysis, biogeography, GIS, climate proxies, dendrochronology, plate tectonics, archaeological heritage and artifact conservation, art history, natural history, and public outreach.