Blaine Burgess ’20 is Investigating Obsidian Sources in Mesoamerica
Blaine Burgess ’20 is a Geology and Anthropology double major. He is examining 508 obsidian artifacts from the archaeological site of La Magdalena in the Bajío region of south-central Mexico. There is little known documentation for this site specifically, but cultural activity in Mesoamerica during its occupation between 350-1521 CE indicates high levels of obsidian exchange. Thus, the site has a potentially diverse selection of obsidian from across the Mexican landscape. Geologists have determined four primary volcanic provinces in Mexico, each differing in time and composition. For this research, Baline is analyzing the elemental concentrations of each artifact with Beloit College’s portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (pXRF) instrument in order to source the origins of extrusion. With the elemental makeup and origin of extrusion for each object, he will also explore how tectonics and magmatism in these separate provinces cause chemical differentiation in obsidian. Blaine is working with Professor Jim Rougvie (Geology).