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date: 13 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: elemental analysis, INAA, activation analysis, bulk chemical characterization, ceramic provenance

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