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Dr. Rhy McMillan

Indigenous-led investigations of ancient lithic resource use in the Pacific Northwest

Are the archaeological materials we find in their original context and condition? Rhy McMillan (PhD, Geological Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada) blends geochemistry, spectroscopy, and archaeology in his quest to create equitable partnerships with Indigenous communities and produce additional lines of archaeological evidence in collaboration with oral history and Indigenous science. As a multidisciplinary researcher, Rhy uses Western scientific techniques to investigate the sedimentary context of archaeological objects, their preservation states, their geochemical and structural characteristics, and the degree to which they have been physically and chemically altered post-mortem and/or post-burial. He adapts and enhances traditional archaeological approaches by integrating sophisticated geochemical and spectroscopic techniques, providing robust and detailed information that can be used to interpret the source, identity, and movement of ancient humans and their belongings (artifacts) through space and time.



  • University of British Columbia (UBC) | Vancouver, BC | 2014 – 2020  Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Geological Sciences
  • University of British Columbia (UBC) | Vancouver, BC | 2016 – 2017
  • Certificate in Advanced Teaching and Learning (CATL)
  • Vancouver Island University (VIU) | Nanaimo, BC | 2009 – 2013 
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and Earth Science 

Key Research Interests

  • Geochemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Bone diagenesis and taphonomy
  • Lithic provenance
  • Collaborative practice
  • Multivariate statistics

Main Publications

  • Weis, D., Harrison, L. N., McMillan, R., & Williamson, N. M. (2020). Fine‐scale structure of Earth's deep mantle resolved through statistical analysis of Hawaiian basalt geochemistry. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, e2020GC009292.
  • Golding, M. L., McMillan, R. (2020). The impacts of diagenesis on the geochemical characteristics and Color Alteration Index of conodonts. Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments.
  • Satyro, S., Li, H., Dehkhoda, A. M., McMillan, R., Ellis, N., & Baldwin, S. A. (2020) Application of Fe-biochar composites for selenium (Se+ 6) removal from aqueous solution and effect of the presence of competing anions under environmentally relevant conditions. Journal of Environmental Management, 277, 111472.
  • McMillan, R. 2020. Micro-analytical geochemical and spectroscopic investigations of the original context and condition of archaeological biominerals and mineraloids. Doctoral dissertation (Geological Sciences), University of British Columbia.
  • Coolbaugh, M. F., McCormack, J. K., Raudsepp, M., Czech, E., McMillan, R., & Kampf, A. R. (2020). Andymcdonaldite (Fe3+2Te6+O6), a new ferric iron tellurate with inverse trirutile structure from the Detroit district, Juab County, Utah. The Canadian Mineralogist, 58(1), 85-97.
  • McMillan, R., Amini, M., Weis, D. 2019. Splitting obsidian: Assessing a multiproxy approach for sourcing obsidian artifacts in British Columbia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 28.
  • McMillan, R., Golding, M. 2019. Thermal maturity of carbonaceous material in conodonts and the Color Alteration Index: independently identifying maximum temperature with Raman spectroscopy. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 534. 
  • McMillan, R., Snoeck, C., de Winter, N., Claeys, P., Weis, D. 2019. Evaluating the impact of acetic acid chemical pre-treatment on ‘old’ and cremated bone with the ‘Perio-spot’ technique and ‘Perios-endos’ profiles. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 530: 330-344. 
  • McMillan, R., Weis, D., Amini, M., Bonjean, D. 2017. Identifying the reworking and stratigraphic provenance of bones by exploring multivariate geochemical relationships with the ‘Perio-spot’ technique. Journal of Archaeological Science 88: 1-13
  • Bonjean, D., Vanbrabant, Y., Abrams, G., Pirson, S., Burlet, C., Di Modica, K., Otte, M., Vander Auwera, J., Golitko, M., McMillan, R., Groemaere, E. 2015a. A new Cambrian black pigment used during the late Middle Palaeolithic discovered at Scladina Cave (Andenne, Belgium). Journal of Archaeological Science 55: 253-265. 

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