Analytical techniques and research methodologies for archaeological ceramic analysis have changed drastically over time; however, the way we record and represent ceramics graphically has not undergone significant change in response to new technologies. This chapter discusses the method of traditional pottery illustration, line and shading or monochrome drawings done by hand, its demerits and proposes a new illustration style which combines traditional drawing formats, photography, and computer software. The new method of pottery drawing overcomes these demerits and shows the illustrations in an analytical method. Moreover this new method can benefit archaeologists to comprehend ceramic on wider geographical regions and enhances opportunities for research.
When telling stories through rock art, the artist formed an intimate relationship with the audience through the act of conveying such stories. Ethnographic evidence in many parts of the world suggests that the artist is merely a device through which stories are transmitted from rock surface to audience, whereby the artist becomes an intermediary within the act of performance through the medium of the brush, chisel, and finger, thus creating a theatre of performance. During this performance, the artist used many devices to either conceal or promote the narrative; one of the props used within this performance would have been the panel on which the art was performed, placing figures into spatial context and observing the rules of grammar. This chapter explores how early artists selected and used various rock surfaces, utilizing the rock face’s colour, texture, placement, and natural topography to mimic the surrounding landscape.
Hans Barnard and Jelmer W. Eerkens
Organic residues can be defined as the carbon-based remains of plants, animals or humans, either in their original or a decomposed state. Biomolecules that can indicate the source of such residues include lipids (such as fatty acids, sterols, mono-, di-, and triglycerides, di-, and triterpenoids), alkaloids (such as caffeine, capsaicin, cocaine, ephedrine, nicotine, theobromine), carbohydrates (such as polysaccharides and starches), proteins (such as albumin, casein, collagen, gliadin, hemaglobin, hordein, myoglobin) and DNA. Archaeological organic residues have been identified in stains on teeth, deposits on stone tools, stains in soil, smoking pipes, and material adhering to pot sherds. A comprehensive overview of such an overwhelming number of compounds and range of methods is beyond the scope of this chapter. Instead, we present an overview for identifying and interpreting organic residues in ceramic vessels, followed by a brief discussion of issues related to archaeological organic residue analysis in general.
Ian Wilkinson, Patrick Quinn, Mark Williams, Jeremy Taylor, and Ian Whitbread
Microfossils found in archaeological ceramics include representatives of kingdoms Fungi, Protista, Plantae, and Animalia and are composed of calcite, silica, or resistant organic compounds capable of withstanding firing. Methods by which microfossils are isolated for study vary considerably, but the best results involve the disaggregation of potsherds into their individual grains or by cutting petrological thin sections. Microfossils can be related directly to the age and depositional environment of the source materials (clays, temper, and slip) used in the manufacturing process, although the introduction of contaminants at the time of construction must also be recognized. When incorporated into an integrated analysis, the microfossils may demonstrate provenance; contribute to a better understanding of the local environment and landscape; identify transportation routes; contribute to an understanding of the technology used, including construction methods and firing; and elucidate the use to which the vessels were put.
Emilie Chalmin and Jillian Huntley
The materials used to make rock art contain important evidence about the cultural practices of the people who created it: their technologies, movements, and social interactions. The number of studies of archaeological pigments in the recent literature demonstrates how fruitful such enquiries can be. In this chapter, the authors discuss the physicochemical characterization of rock art pigments, outline the history of research in this area, differentiate key concepts and terminology, and describe principal methods. They conclude with illustrative case studies from France, South Africa, and Australia to demonstrate the kinds of archaeological information that can be preserved in rock art pigments.
This article discusses the current status of archaeological obsidian studies, including techniques used in characterization and sourcing studies, obsidian hydration, and regional syntheses. It begins with an overview of obsidian and the unique formation processes that create it before turning to a discussion of the significance of characterization and sourcing techniques for understanding prehistoric obsidian trade and exchange. It then considers the problematic aspects of the term “sourcing,” despite its ubiquitous use in archaeology and archaeometry, along with the use of X-ray fluorescence in the chemical characterization of obsidian. It also explores obsidian hydration dating methods and equations, factors that can affect the date assignments for hydration specimens, and the various uses of obsidian in prehistoric times. Finally, it addresses some important questions relating to obsidian research and suggests new directions in the field.
Jaume Buxeda I Garrigós and Marisol Madrid i Fernandez
This chapter discusses the differences between archaeometric research problems, addressed to the advancement of the discipline, and the application of archaeometric routine problems in archaeological research ones, in order to deep our knowledge in social systems. This archaeometric routine problems start with the as-received state pottery, a composite material, and they address two broad and related questions: the identification of meaningful ceramic groups and provenance, in order to be able to infer the compositions of archaeological ceramic assemblages; and aspects related to ceramic manufacture, in order to reconstructing manufacture processes and identifying performance characteristics, also contributing to the study of technique and technology. It is argued that a fruitful sampling strategy starts with the understanding that pottery is part of assemblages resulting from different formation processes of the archaeological record. Thus a stratified multiphase sampling, performed in different sampling steps with post-stratification after each step, is advisable.
Sophie Blain and Christopher Hall
Many important anthropological questions require the researcher to determine the date of the artifacts and features under consideration. Archaeological ceramics are often used to date contexts and strata, relying upon stylistic changes over time (typology). These relative dates can often be anchored in real time by radiocarbon dating of organic material believed to be contemporaneous. However, these dates are still relative or approximates. The two techniques discussed in this chapter, luminescence and rehydroxylation dating, are able to directly date the ceramics themselves using mineralogical/structural changes. Rehydroxylation dating is at present a research method not fully validated.
Corina Ionescu and Volker Höck
Electron microprobe analysis (EMPA) provides information on the chemical composition of minerals and their relationships in archaeological ceramics by utilizing a narrow electron beam to stimulate the emission of X-rays. Among various signals produced, the most important are the back-scattered electrons (BSE), the secondary electrons (SE) and the characteristic X-rays. The possibility to combine BSE images, SE images, elemental mapping and quantitative analysis offers a sound basis for integrated interpretation of the ancient ceramics. The precise compositional and fabric features resulted by EMPA are indicators of the raw materials and their provenance. Even when in small amounts, the composition of the newly formed phases enables narrowing down the technological constraints, such as firing temperature and atmosphere.
Roberto Hazenfratz Marks
Evaluating uncertainties in experimental results is an indispensable task since it can affect the statistical treatment and interpretation of data. This chapter focuses on the possible sources of variability and uncertainty in the chemical characterization of archaeological ceramics. A data set with a high degree of uncertainty and/or one in which the uncertainty is unrelated to cultural factors or inherent variability, such as geochemical heterogeneity, can easily be misinterpreted leading to incorrect answers to archaeological questions. Sources of uncertainty, natural, cultural, post-depositional, and uncertainty related to sampling and analytical instrumentation, are discussed. Finally, the impact of uncertainty on archaeological ceramic studies is addressed, with particular emphasis on grouping samples of similar chemical composition.
Malgorzata Daszkiewicz and Lara Maritan
Ceramics are by definition inorganic non-metallic materials, formed from a powder and by firing converted to a permanent solid mass. Firing is thus a sine qua non for the creation of a ceramic product. This chapter discusses the mineralogical changes and the changes in physical properties which occur in raw materials during the firing process. Experimental firing (in the laboratory and in the field) is a method used to examine the relationship between the properties of ceramic products and raw materials as well as firing conditions. Re-firing, as opposed to experimental firing, involves the firing of ancient ceramic fragments in the laboratory. This procedure enables ancient ceramics to be classified by the type of plastic raw material used in their manufacture and also provides an estimation of equivalent original firing temperature.
Fabric description is fundamental to the characterization, technological analysis and provenance determination of archaeological ceramics. It encompasses description of the arrangement, size, shape, frequency and composition of ceramic material constituents. These properties are used to identify the raw materials, their processing, vessel construction methods, and firing conditions. The process of description should, so far as possible, be an objective record of observed fabric properties that is independent of interpretations concerning technology and provenance. Fabric descriptions are made of ceramics in hand specimen and of samples prepared as thin sections for examination under a polarizing microscope. Rapid evaluation of fabric properties in the field is achieved by studying hand specimens using a magnifying glass or stereomicroscope. Laboratory-based analysis of thin sections provides more accurate and comprehensive identification of fabric properties, especially mineral and rock fragments in coarse fabrics, in terms of qualitative and quantitative data.
Ana Martinez-Carrillo and Juan Barcelo
In this chapter a formal typology of Iberian vessels is proposed. The ceramic material comes from different archaeological settlements located in the provinces of Jaén, Granada, and Córdoba (Andalusia, Spain) and date to Iberian period. The corpus is composed of 1,133 complete ceramic vessels. First, we define the criteria for the construction of a ceramic typology and then the similarities in the ceramic profiles are measured following morphometric criteria. The morphometric method we used to characterize and classify this wheel-made pottery according to its profile is Mathematical Morphology. Each piece is represented as a vector, obtained by sampling the so-called morphological curves (erosion, dilation, opening, and closing), and Euclidean distance is used as a measure of similarity.
The chapter reviews the use of Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR) in study of ancient pottery and its applications to archaeology. FT-IR is a powerful technique for assessing the mineralogical composition of ancient ceramics and is, almost, non-destructive for the pottery. This method can be applied in analyses of the composition of the bulk ceramic as well as of particular pottery attributes, such as separated pastes, temper particles, binders, glazes, slips, paints, and pigments. FT-IR spectroscopy has the advantage of being able to detect both, the crystalline minerals as well as the pseudo-amorphous fired-clay in the ceramic fabric. The assessing of the mineralogical composition of the ceramics can be used in their classification, sourcing, and estimation of firing temperature. Applying spectral analysis by second-derivative and curve-fitting techniques is adding a quantitative dimension to the mineralogical analysis.
Handheld portable energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometry is used for non-destructive chemical characterization of archaeological ceramics. Portable XRF can provide adequate analytical sensitivity to discriminate geochemically distinct ceramic pastes, and to identify compositional clusters that correlate with data patterns acquired by NAA or other high sensitivity techniques. However, successful non-destructive analysis of unprepared inhomogeneous ceramic samples requires matrix-defined scientific protocols to control matrix effects which reduce the sensitivity and precision of the instrumentation. Quantification of the measured fluorescence intensities into absolute concentration values and detection of light elements is encumbered by the lack of matrix matched calibration and proper vacuum facilities. Nevertheless, semi-quantitative values for a limited range of high Z elements can be generated. Unstandardized results are difficult to validate by others, and decreased analytical resolution of non-destructive surface analysis may disadvantage site-specific sourcing, jeopardize correct group assignments, and lead to under-interpretation of ceramic craft and production systems.
Ashley N. Coutu
This chapter explores the use of isotope analysis to bridge the knowledge gap between contemporary wildlife conservation management and the ecology of the African elephant in its historic landscape. Case studies from eastern and southern Africa focus on isotope analysis as it has been used to understand diet, movement, and environmental conditions of elephant populations over longer time scales than is possible with observational studies. These case studies provide support for the applied use of historical ecological data to make a substantial impact on the modern conservation of the elephant in its landscape. Although this chapter is specific to African elephants, it is possible to apply the methodology and approach to other species and in different landscapes across the world.
M. S. Tite
This chapter investigates the history of scientific research in the field of archaeological ceramics. The primary aim of this research is the investigation of the overall life-cycle of surviving ceramics starting with their production and continuing through their distribution to their use, reuse, and ultimate discard. The first step involves reconstruction of the production, distribution, and use of ceramics. The second step involves interpretation of this reconstructed life-cycle in order to obtain a better understanding of the behavior of the people who produced, distributed, and used these ceramics. The interpretation of the reconstructed production technology is concerned with trying to determine the reasons for the observed technological choices and changes, and the interpretation of the reconstructed distribution of ceramics is concerned with both trying to determine patterns of trade or exchange away from any identified production center or source of raw material.
Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) and Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)
Mark Golitko and Laure Dussubieux
Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) is a versatile technique capable of measuring nearly every element on the Periodic Table down to extremely low concentrations. Using liquid sampling, it is a powerful method for bulk compositional characterization but has been only sporadically applied to archaeological ceramic studies. With laser ablation sampling, ICP-MS can be used to produce spatially resolved chemical information and has a wide range of archaeological applications including the analysis of ceramic surface treatments, paste composition, temper composition, and identification of post-burial chemical alteration. ICP-MS and LA-ICP-MS are particularly valuable when used in conjunction with bulk and mineralogical characterization techniques to elucidate which potential cultural, geological, or environmental effects are responsible for bulk compositional patterning, as well as providing complimentary compositional provenance information for individual phases of ceramic paste.
Leah D. Minc and Johannes Sterba
Instrumental neutron activation analysis (INAA) is one of the most widely used analytical methods for bulk chemical characterization of ceramic pastes, owing to its relatively simple sample preparation procedures, the small sample mass required, and low detection limits for most elements of interest. At least fifty major, minor, and trace elements spanning the main geochemical element groups can be readily determined to the percent, ppm or ppb level, although sensitivity varies by element. In this chapter we provide an overview of the fundamental principles of activation analysis, and describe the steps typically followed in sample preparation, irradiation, gamma spectroscopy, and elemental analysis. In addition, we detail the strengths and weaknesses of INAA for archaeological ceramic studies, and illustrate a few of the many applications that have made INAA the mainstay for studies involving ceramic provenance, the organization of pottery production, and ceramic technology.
Ceramic is one of the most complex and ubiquitous archaeomaterials: occurring around the world at pre-historic through industrial sites and used to fashion everything from residences and technological installations to utilitarian wares and decorative/votive figurines. It is not simply the range of cultures and functions ceramics serve but the diversity in materials and manufacture technology that makes archaeological ceramic analysis as challenging as it is essential. In this volume, we address the socio-cultural, geochemical, and mineralogical complexity inherent in archaeological ceramic analysis and provide insight into the uncertainties by providing concrete guidelines for designing rigorous research strategies and developing sophisticated and answerable anthropological research questions.