Crow Canyon

Scanning Electron Microscopes

State-of-the art scanning electron microscopes use a beam of electrons to produce greatly magnified and incredibly detailed, almost three-dimensional, images of objects.

 electron microscope
Photo by Dave Pape, 2009. Creative Commons License.


One of the principal applications of this technology in archaeology is in petrographic analysis—for example, to identify the mineralogical composition of pottery. Below is a backscattered electron image of a glaze ware pottery sherd in cross section. At this resolution, the glaze shows up as a thick white band with air bubbles and mineral inclusions.

 sherd detail

Learn more:

Scanning Electron Microscope (Wikipedia) explains the technology and includes a gallery of images.