Philia pottery production and exchange patterns: the geochemical evidence

Christina Makarona, Maria Dikomitou-Eliadou, Karin Nys, Philippe Claeys

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Recent investigations of the Cypriot Philia cultural period have readdressed the discussion of island-wide versus regional pottery production and distribution, as reflected in the stylistic and compositional uniformity observed among the Red Polished Philia pottery, the predominant ware during this period. The hypotheses formed on the grounds of macroscopic, petrographic and elemental analysis are investigated here using strontium (Sr) isotopes.

Strontium isotopic analysis is conducted by measuring the ratio of two different isotopes of the element (Sr87/Sr86) in the sampled material. The technique has been recently gaining ground in archaeometry, as it may be used to trace movements of populations or dietary habits if applied to bone or tooth enamel. However, its potential for answering other significant types of archaeological questions, such as ceramic provenance, still remains untapped. The isotopic ratio of mineral raw materials is related to the specific geological background through which they formed and thus constitutes a more definitive signature than simple elemental analysis can provide. This fingerprint carries over from clay to pottery minimally affected by firing conditions or post-burial alterations, allowing us to link ceramic groups to geographical regions more robustly.

Considering the potentials of the Sr isotopes analysis, the technique was used to address the ceramic uniformity observed among the Red Polished Philia pottery recovered in different synchronous sites across Cyprus, at the very beginning of the Cypriot Bronze Age. While recent petrographic and elemental analysis have shown that most of this pottery was distributed across Cyprus from a specific production centre or a cluster of adjacent production centres, the Sr isotopes was used to validate the argument, comparing the isotopic data of representative ceramic samples from different sites across the island. In addition to the finer Red Polished Philia pottery, contemporary cooking pot samples were also studied for a more coherent depiction of pottery production and distribution systems. This was essentially a targeted attempt to address specific archaeological enquiries employing Sr isotopes, to test the correspondence between different methods and especially the potentials of this newly emerging elemental technique.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication6th Symposium of the Hellenic Society for Archaeometry, May 2013, Athens, Greece
Publication statusPublished - May 2013
EventUnknown -
Duration: 1 May 2013 → …

Publication series

Name6th Symposium of the Hellenic Society for Archaeometry, May 2013, Athens, Greece


Period1/05/13 → …


  • Philia
  • Red Polished Philia Ware
  • Philia cooking pots
  • geochemical


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