composition of fossils can be ana-lyzed to produce detailed information about
the past. Elemental composition can provide infor-mation on fossil provenance,
environmental and atmospheric conditions during deposition, and ecological and
trophic information about various organisms.
several techniques for analyzing the elemental composition of fossils: X-ray
fluores-cence, neutron activation analysis, and various mass spectroscopy and
chemical techniques. Most of these techniques are inherently destruc-tive, while
others are destructive for practical applications, such that samples need to be
ground into a fine powder for bulk analysis of larger samples. Paleontology
relies on the phys-ical characteristics in addition to the elemental
composition; thus, a non-destructive, or at least non-invasive, alternative is
needed for analyzing the elemental composition of fossils without do-ing harm to
this limited and valuable resource. Due to this requirement, samples cannot be
al-tered to create more uniform geometries for analysis. Internal monitors,
which provide more accurate measurements in activation analysis techniques, also
cannot be used.
activation analysis (PAA) is a reliable technique that has been shown, in
certain appli-cations, to be non-destructive and useful. This study focused on
the utility of PAA for determi-nation of stratigraphic and geographic provenance
of fossils. Provenance determination is important for many reasons. Many fossils
are collected illegally from Federal land. It would be useful to develop a
reliable method to determine provenance of fossils and determine if they were
illegally obtained. Museum collections also con-tain many unidentified fossils.
This is due to the lack of standardized collection procedures in the past, as
well as the collection and donation of fossils by amateur collectors. Reliable
prove-nance determination would allow these unidentified fossils to be properly
matched to similar fossils in collections. Finally, PAA could al-low for
correlation of geological formations. PAA may be able to determine the
stratigraphic origin of a fossil with more precision, which would cre-ate better
stratigraphic and temporal resolution.