Customizing A Stereo 'Scope For Archaeological Studies

by Ian MacGregor, Burnaby, BC, Canada

 

Until recently, most of my microscopy focused on living critters but about a year ago I became interested in Early Iron Age metal artefacts so I decided to customize one of my Zeiss IVb stereo microscopes ( Photo 1 ) specifically for archaeology.

Photo 1: Zeiss IVb stereo microscope fitted with a photo attachment from a Zeiss SV-8, a double diaphragm from a Zeiss OPMI and a Volpi 250HL fibre optic ring light.

The depth-of-field was greatly improved by adding a double diaphragm accessory used on a Zeiss OPMI surgical microscope ( Photos 2 and 3 ).

Photo 2: A double diaphragm attachment from a Zeiss OPMI surgical microscope.

Photo 3: The double diaphragm mounts between the binocular head and the microscope body.

I have been studying bronze arrowheads ( ca 300 BCE ) from the Early Iron Age and I first tried using an inexpensive "third hand" tweezers ( Photo 4 ) ... but it had limitations when taking a consistent series of photos of the each of the 3 sides of the specimens.

Photo 4: A " third hand " tweezers purchased from a rock and gem shop.

Photo 5: I removed the mirror from the IVb's illuminator stage plate ( photo inset ) and replaced it with a custom made mandrel with a pin point so that I could mount arrowheads temporarily with plastic putty. I also added a thumbscrew ( socket head set machine screw ) to lock the mandrel in position. In practice, this mandrel allows rapid and consistent photos of the artefact's three faces, but it restricts examination to the horizontal axis.

Photo 6: My solution to the problem of multi-axis viewing is this simple, but versatile tilting stage made from plastic pipe fittings, a lead shot filled ping-pong ball and some metal washers.

Photo 7: I was so pleased with the performance of the small tilting stage that I made a larger version and an auxiliary stage table to accommodate longer artefacts.

Photo 8: The stage table is also very handy for sorting!

All comments to the author Ian MacGregor are welcomed.

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Published in the May 2008 edition of Micscape Magazine.

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