Mercyhurst dedicates distinctive perishables analysis lab

Mercyhurst College’s distinctive R. L. Andrews Center for Perishables Analysis - the only lab of its kind in North America dedicated to analyzing prehistoric and historic perishable artifacts – will be officially dedicated on Thursday, May 5, at 4 p.m. in Zurn 113.

Dr. James Adovasio, director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute and one of the world’s leading authorities in the analysis of basketry, textiles, cordage and other plant fiber-derived artifacts in prehistoric societies, oversees the operations of the “basket lab” and is the driving force behind the charge to elevate the sciences at Mercyhurst. The lab was gutted in the summer of 2010 and renovated at an estimated cost of $290,000. The director of the facility is Edward Jolie and the day-to-day management is handled by Jeff Illingworth.

“This is the only one of its kind in the hemisphere,” said Adovasio of the basketry lab dedicated to the memory of his late wife and anthropologist Rhonda L. Andrews. “Perishables analysis is a small and relatively arcane specialization. Typically what we have learned about prehistoric civilizations comes from the study of durable materials, like stone and ceramics, when, in fact, 95 percent of what people manufactured prehistorically was made out of perishable materials.”

Adovasio said the renovated basket lab is designed to be a user-friendly work environment with generous work stations, an enhanced traffic flow and ample storage facilities. It is equipped with modern research instrumentation like microscopes connected to high definition video screens for viewing and measuring artifacts, and printers for image capture and the capability of immediately forwarding specimens to the conservation lab for a better interface between labs.

In addition to the basket lab, situated on the first floor of Zurn Hall, construction crews also renovated the basement office complex of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute and the neighboring processing lab last summer.

During the past decade, Mercyhurst has realized more than $10 million in new construction, renovations and equipment for its science facilities.
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