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Tracing Deposits: Juniata Geologist to Talk about Ore-Related detective Work

(Posted February 8, 2010)

Ryan Mathur, associate professor of geology

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Tracing a copper artifact -- say, a Native American pendant or a decorative bowl -- to its original ore deposit source can not only help geologists understand how resources are used but, according to a talk by a Juniata College geology professor at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 17, in Neff Lecture Hall, such discoveries also can aid historians or archeologists in determining migration patterns, trade relationships and other socio-economic factors.

Ryan Mathur, associate professor of geology, will talk on "Isotopic Insights: Show Me The Money," explaining how two geochemical techniques are used to identify and differentiate ore deposits for gold and copper at sites in the southwestern United States, South Africa, Chile and Colombia. Ore deposits at individual sites can be identified by a unique geochemical signature. Artifacts made with metals mined from those sites can be traced back to the mine or ore deposit from which the metal originated.

Mathur will explain the science behind the two analytical tests and highlight a recent research project using 19th-century copper pennies in which he analyzed the copper used in an 1810-era penny and traced the ore to its original deposit in Cornwall, England.
Mathur joined the Juniata faculty in 2002 as assistant professor of geology. He earned a bachelor's degree in geology and history at Juniata in 1997, and went on to earn a doctorate in geosciences at the University of Arizona in 2000.
He was promoted to associate professor in 2007.

At Juniata he teaches such courses as History of Mining in the Americas, Death and Destruction, Geophysics and Hydrogeology.

Artifacts made with metals mined from those sites can be traced back to the mine or ore deposit from which the metal originated.

Mathur's research focuses on using geochemistry to investigate the evolution of ore deposits. Mathur's research has been published in the "Journal of Archeological Science," "Earth and Planetary Science Letters," "Mineralium Deposita," "Geology" and "Economic Geology."

As a researcher, Mathur received First Place in the University of Arizona Graduate Student Showcase in 2000. While at Arizona, he received the Tuscon Gem & Mineral Society Scholarship and the Sulzer Earth Science Scholarship. He earned honorable mention for both a Fulbright Graduate Student Fellowship in 1998 and for a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship in 1997.

Contact John Wall at or (814) 641-3132 for more information.