Time travel is possible. By studying fragments of ancient people’s fire pits, wood parts from man made structures, and tools, scientists can reconstruct the species composition, ecology and climatic conditions of the environment from whence they came. During this presentation, Dr. Alden, who has examined wood and charcoal from shipwrecks and archaeological sites; textiles from Peruvian mummies, the Midas Tumulus, rare white Coast Salish blankets made of Mountain Goat and Dog hair and the Star Spangled Banner; a time capsule from the HMS Beagle and plants collected by the Lewis & Clark Expedition, will cover basic wood terms, cell types and their arrangement into tissues (wood) followed by an introduction to microscopic wood and charcoal identification, sample preparation and resources (books with keys, scientific articles and databases (static and interactive), concluding with examples of applied wood/charcoal identification covering anthropology, archaeology, botanical research, fine arts conservation and provenance determination, and forensics.

Dr. Harry A. Alden, whose specialty is the identification of wood and digital image analysis. is a volunteer and subject matter expert for Alden Identification Service (http://wood- identification.com) catering to the microscopic identification of wood from objects of fine arts, in addition to archaeological and engineering contexts. He received a Ph.D. degree (Biology) in 1993 from The Florida State University, Tallahassee FL; a Masters of Science Degree (Botany) in 1984 from the University of California, Davis, CA and a Bachelor of Science Degree cum laude (Biology) in 1981 from Millersville University, Millersville PA.

His research areas included the microscopic anatomy and identification of animal fibers and plant materials (especially wood) from fine art and ethnographic objects. Dr. Alden has published 2 general technical references on the hardwoods and softwoods of North America (FPL-GTR-83 &  FPL-GTR-102), cover articles for Microscopy Today as well as articles in peer reviewed journals and magazines. He has worked at the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, Center for Wood Anatomy in Madison, Wisconsin; Winterthur Museum and the Smithsonian Institution.


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