On December 7, 2012, undergraduate students in Professor Axel Schmitt’s mineralogy course (ESS 51) presented their research projects to the Earth and Space Sciences department at UCLA.
Jason Brouwer, an ESS 51 student, completed his end of term project studying Native American arrowheads that he collected in the Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Brouwer used X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy to determine the amounts of certain trace elements within the obsidian arrowheads left behind by Chumash tribes. He found his measurements almost precisely matched obsidian deposits 200 miles away in southeastern California. He concluded that the local Chumash likely traded for the obsidian arrowhead with the Coso people indigenous to that specific area of the Mojave Desert. Possessing an avid interest in Native American cultures and artifacts prior to taking the course, Brouwer was excited to find a way to turn his passion into a class project.
The ESS51 course, entitled “Mineralogy: Earth and Planetary Materials” focuses on mineral structure, crystal chemistry, and laboratory study. Students in the class learn hand sample identification, optical and electron microscopy, and spectroscopic techniques.