Sr isotopic analysis for the provenance study of ancient ceramics: an integrated approach

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The potential of Sr isotopic analysis in provenance studies of ancient ceramics has been explored in only a limited number of case studies (Carter et al., 2011, Li et al., 2005). The current project constitutes a novel application of Sr isotopic analysis for the provenance study of ancient pottery, within the scope of an integrated analytical approach. The technique was applied to both pottery sherds and clay sediment samples from Cyprus as an effort to link the isotopic fingerprint of the raw materials to that of the final product. The results were meant to be compared to and complement pre-existing Pb isotopic analysis carried out at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Renson et al., 2011), while an array of additional analytical techniques was considered in order to ensure a more holistic examination of the samples.

Our initial motive was to determine the applicability of Sr isotopic analysis within the scope of provenance studies and investigate to which extent these results could be used to disambiguate previous Pb isotopic analysis research on the same samples. To this end a preliminary test group of a total of 46 samples from the archaeological site Hala Sultan Tekke (Dromolaxia - Vyzakia, Cyprus) was selected: 27 ceramic sherds, covering different classes of local and imported pottery (plain white wheel-made, coarse hand-made, coarse wheel-made, white slip II, Canaanite), and 19 clay sediment samples, covering a variety of soils within relative proximity to the area of production. The samples were analyzed using a MC-ICP-MS in order to determine their characteristic 87Sr/86Sr ratio.

The data resulting from the Sr isotopic analysis were assessed in parallel with the previously obtained Pb isotopic data, allowing a more clear distinction between the isotopic fingerprint of the raw material sources. Moreover, an attempt was made to investigate the use of the Sr data in conjunction with petrographic examination in order to reach conclusions regarding the nature of the materials added to the raw clay (temper). In this manner we hoped to achieve a mapping of the deviation of the final ceramic product from the raw material fingerprint composition, in relation to the technology used for its creation.

CARTER, S., WIEGAND, B., MAHOOD, G., DUDAS, F., WOODEN, J., SULLIVAN, A., BOWRING, S., 2011, Strontium isotopic evidence for prehistoric transport of gray-ware ceramic materials in the eastern Grand Canyon region, USA. Geoarchaeology 26, 189-218

LI, B.P., ZHAO, J.X., GREIG, A., COLLERSON, K., ZHUO, Z.X., FENG, Y.X., 2005, Potential of Sr isotopic analysis in ceramics provenance studies: Characterisation of Chinese stonewares. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 240, 726-732

RENSON, V., COENAERTS, J., NYS, K., MATIELLI, N., VANHAECKE, F., FAGEL, N. AND CLAEYS, PH., 2011. Lead isotopic analysis for the identification of Late Bronze Age pottery from Hala Sultan Tekke (Cyprus). Archaeometry 53, 37-57
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication39th International Symposium on Archaeometry, 28 May – 1 June, Leuven, Belgium, 2012
Place of PublicationLeuven, Belgium
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event39th International Symposium on Archaeometry - Leuven, Belgium
Duration: 28 May 20121 Jun 2012


Conference39th International Symposium on Archaeometry


  • ancient ceramics
  • Sr isotopes
  • Cyprus


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