The elemental dimensions of ceramic fabrics: re-evaluating Late Bronze Age Cypriot pottery recipes using micro-XRF elemental mapping

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

Abstract

A clay paste recipe cannot be adequately described by a bulk elemental composition; the nature of its individual components and their combination is what reveals the thought process behind it. Therefore, spatially resolved elemental composition data can be a great asset for ceramic provenance studies, perfectly complimenting petrographic fabric analysis. In this work, μXRF (micro X-Ray Fluorescence) is investigated as a reliable, fast and inexpensive alternative to other elemental mapping techniques (ex. SEM-EDX).

The μXRF instrument used in this study is equipped with an automated sample stage, allowing acquisition of elemental maps of sherds with a resolution of 25 μm, at up to 100x magnification. The measurement itself is non-destructive but requires a flat surface – a pre-existing surface is sufficient; a polished cut is ideal. Quantification protocols were designed using custom reference materials matching the compositions of possible raw materials of ancient ceramics. This approach provides not only spectral data for semi-quantitative assessment and phase extraction but also accurate, spatially resolved elemental composition data (comparable to petrographic fabrics).

The Kouris river valley in southwestern Cyprus was chosen as a case-study to demonstrate this approach, as it represents an important Late Bronze Age archaeological context. In total, 87 ceramic sherds were examined, from two prominent sites: Alassa, close to the Troodos foothills, with remains of an important administrative seat (Alassa-Palaeotaverna) and a settlement (Alassa-Pano Mandilaris) and Episkopi-Bamboula, a coastal site with evidence of international trade. The samples represent both locally produced pottery (Plain Wares, Coarse Wares) and possible imports (White Painted Wheel-made III). Previous petrographic and isotopic analysis regarding pottery production at Alassa indicate the use of a range of raw materials from within the valley: igneous clays on the Troodos slopes, succeeded by marl formations down river, ending in alluvial deposits near the coast. The μXRF results helped characterise the raw materials in more detail and re-evaluate the fabrics that had emerged petrographically. The existence of both calcareous and non-calcareous clay variations for certain recipes was addressed and, ultimately, the comparison between similar recipes from different sites revealed how these were adapted to locally available clays.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication13th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event13th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics - Athens, Greece
Duration: 24 Sep 201526 Sep 2015

Conference

Conference13th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics
CountryGreece
CityAthens
Period24/09/1526/09/15

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The elemental dimensions of ceramic fabrics: re-evaluating Late Bronze Age Cypriot pottery recipes using micro-XRF elemental mapping'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this