Geochemical proxies for the technological study of late bronze age ceramics from South-Western cyprus

Onderzoeksoutput: PhD Thesis


Archaeological ceramic research aims to answer three fundamental questions regarding a ceramic vessel: its provenance or place and context of manufacture; the technological choices made by potters to ensure certain functional properties; its use within its cultural context. The methodological framework developed in the current thesis focuses on the identification of technological ceramic traditions from Late Bronze Age Cyprus, based on the deconvolution between ceramic recipes and the specificraw materials used for their expression.

Firstly, a framework combining the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS) with elemental and isotopic composition data was developed in order to identify and characterise Cypriot clay types both in the landscape and in terms of their geochemistry. Secondly, a combination of three analytical techniques was used to characterise the underlying ceramic traditions corresponding to Cypriot ceramic samples: petrographic analysis data were used to identify clay paste recipesin terms of the type and abundance of mineral inclusions; micro-X-ray Fluorescence (μXRF) elemental mapping was used to characterise the clay matrix and mineral inclusions in terms of major and minor element composition; Pb and Sr isotopic analysis were combined as a more precise proxy for the geological provenance of clays, linking the ceramics to clay procurement landscapes.

The archaeological timeframe being investigated is the Cypriot Late Bronze Age (1600 -1200 BC), when the island’s re-entrance into international copper trading networks led to major socio-economic changesand shifting settlement patterns.The study of ceramic traditions can be used to trace these patterns as the choices made by potters during the manufacturing process are deeply tied to each specific community of practice. The developed methodology was applied to two distinct case studies of Late Bronze Age Cypriot ceramics. Firstly, storage vessels from South-Western Cyprus were investigated in order to determine theirmode of production and distribution. Storage vessels constitute a proxy for the organisation of the administration of surpluses within the system of Cypriot polities and, therefore, the emerging ceramic traditions involved in their production were used toelucidate connections between two neighbouring polities, the Paphos polity and the Kouris river valley. Secondly, the ceramic traditions of two different sites, Alassa and Episkopi, both within the Kouris valley polity, were compared and contrasted in order to identify movements of populations within the valley itself. The site of Alassa was newly founded during the period under investigation and its mode of foundation can be attributed either to the direct movement of populations from the coastal centre of Episkopi, the nucleation of smaller settlements or the relocation of populations from neighbouring regions. The characterisation of the ceramic traditions of Alassa is used to link them to locations in the landscape where the founding populations would derive from.

The current project is designed as a Marie Curie Early Stage Research Fellowship within the NARNIA-ITN research project (Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013], grant agreement n°265010).
Originele taal-2English
Toekennende instantie
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Claeys, Philippe, Promotor
  • Nys, Karin, Promotor
Datum van toekenning28 feb 2023
StatusPublished - 2023


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