Archaeometry

Current research reports and chronological list of recent articles.


Archaeometry is an international research journal covering the application of the physical and biological sciences to archaeology and the history of art. The topics covered include dating methods, artifact studies, mathematical methods, remote sensing techniques, conservation science, environmental reconstruction, biological anthropology and archaeological theory. Papers are expected to have a clear archaeological or art historical context, be of the highest scientific standards, and to present data of international relevance.

The publisher is Wiley. The copyright and publishing rights of specialized products listed below are in this publishing house. This is also responsible for the content shown.

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Additional research articles see Current Chemistry Research Articles. Magazines with similar content (analytical chemistry and archaeological chemistry):

 - Analytica Chimica Acta.

 - Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.

 - The Analyst.



Archaeometry - Abstracts



Breaking Traditions: An Isotopic Study on the Changing Funerary Practices in the Dutch Iron Age (800–12 bc)

Urnfields in the Dutch river area were replaced by cemeteries with a mixture of cremation and inhumation graves around the sixth century bc. This study provides the first biogeochemical evidence that the Iron Age communities were heterogeneous in terms of geological origins. The high percentage of non-locally born individuals (~48%) supports the hypothesis that the change in burial practice was the result of the influx of foreign people, who were being allowed to keep their own burial customs, whereas some of the local inhabitants adapted the burial rites of foreign cultures, leading to a heterogeneous burial rite for some centuries.
Datum: 11.09.2017


Martin Aitken FRS, FSA (11 March 1922 – 15 June 2017)


Datum: 11.09.2017


A Comparison Study of Middle Bronze Age II Daggers and Their Rivets as a Tool for a Better Understanding of Their Production

The Middle Bronze Age II is a period during which there exists a contemporaneous usage of arsenic copper and tin bronze for metal weaponry production. In order to learn more about the alloys used in this period, the blades and rivets from 65 daggers of two significantly different types, which were discovered at the Rishon LeZion (RL) cemetery, Israel, were tested by the non-destructive method of X-ray fluorescence (XRF). The results reveal new knowledge of the alloys selected for dagger and rivet production, both of which represent fine examples of the Middle Bronze Age II Southern Levant in metal industry.
Datum: 08.09.2017


Prehistoric Settlement, Mobility and Societal Structure in the Peak District National Park: New Evidence from Ceramic Compositional Analysis

Detailed compositional and technological analysis of a large assemblage of prehistoric ceramics from numerous sites situated within the Peak District National Park has been used to explore the settlement patterns, societal structure, mobility and interaction of the populations that inhabited this area during the Early Bronze Age to Early Iron Age. A surprising pattern emerges of the widespread dominance of a single, geographically restricted temper type, which appears to have been transported and mixed with locally procured clay and used to produce pottery at numerous different sites. The distribution of this and several other compositional groups are defined via thin-section petrography and compared to raw material field samples. The resulting patterns are used to assess the validity of previous theories about prehistoric life in this region during the third to first millennia bc.
Datum: 08.09.2017


A Comparative Study of the Early High-Fired Ceramic Shards from Dongtiaoxi, Zhejiang (China)

There is a generally accepted view that there is an obvious distinction between proto-porcelain and stamped stoneware. However, some early shards unearthed from the Dongtiaoxi region (northern Zhejiang) inspire people to rediscuss the relationship between them, because it is difficult to identify them as proto-porcelain or stamped stoneware. In this work, we have collected samples from three of the earliest kiln sites (Piaoshan, Beijiashan and Nanshan) in the Dongtiaoxi region. We have analysed the chemical composition, firing temperature and phase composition of the samples. Comparing samples from the three kiln sites, we find that, from Piaoshan and Beijiashan to Nanshan, there has been progression in the manufacturing technology. The Shang proto-porcelain and the stamped stoneware from Nanshan have similar raw materials, firing temperatures and body phase compositions—and they have obviously different decorative appearances, such as glazing or stamping. For ceramics from Piaoshan and Beijiashan, there is no clear distinction between glazed and unglazed samples. We believe that in the Dongtiaoxi region, the difference in the decoration between proto-porcelain and stoneware became obvious up to the time of the Nanshan production but that, subsequently, two different paths for the development of high-fired ceramics began to diverge.
Datum: 08.09.2017


Flint and Quartzite: Distinguishing Raw Material Through Bone Cut Marks

Since the 1980s, several experimental analyses have been able to differentiate some lithic tool types and some of their raw materials according to the morphology of cut marks imprinted by such tools when used for butchering activities. Thus, metal tool use has been differentiated in contexts with an abundance of lithic tools, or even the use of hand axes has been documented in carcass processing, in contrast with simple unretouched or retouched flakes. As important as this information is, there are still other important aspects to be analysed. Can cut marks produced with different lithic raw material types be differentiated? Can cut marks made with different types of the same raw material type be characterized and differentiated? The objective of this study is to evaluate if cut marks resulting from the use of different flints and different quartzites are distinguishable from each other. In the present work, an experimental analysis of hundreds of cut marks produced by five types of flint and five varieties of quartzite was carried out. Microphotogrammetry and geometric–morphometric techniques were applied to analyse these cut marks. The results show that flint cut marks and quartzite cut marks can be characterized at the assemblage level. Different types of flint produced cut marks that were not significantly different from each other. Cut marks made with Olduvai Gorge quartzite were significantly different from those produced with a set comprising several other types of quartzites. Crystal size, which is larger in Olduvai Gorge quartzites (0.5 mm) than Spanish quartzites (177–250 μm), is discussed as being the main reason for these statistically significant differences. This documented intra-sample and inter-sample variance does not hinder the resolution of the approach to differentiate between these two generic raw material types and opens the door for the application of this method in archaeological contexts.
Datum: 25.08.2017


Quantifying 3D Micro-Surface Changes on Experimental Stones Used to Break Bones and Their Implications for the Analysis of Early Stone Age Pounding Tools

We present a new method to assess use-wear formation processes of pounding tools used to break bones based on a combination of conventional microscopy, optical 3D surface measurements obtained with a confocal microscope and GIS analysis. The method involves 3D alignment and 3D surface change inspection techniques along with a surface morphometric characterization and 2D spatial pattern analysis, to measure the spatital distribution of significant changes in surface topography of pounding tools. Our results show that microscopic changes can be detected in the surfaces of hammers and anvils after bone breakage activities are performed. Use-wear on the active elements (hammers made on basalt and quartzite) occurred over a larger area than was observed on the passive element (quartzite anvil), but the latter often exhibited deeper modifications. Tool surfaces generally developed smoother topography with increased use, but grain microfracture also appeared with greater frequency over time. This methodology offers highly accurate and statistically robust analyses of microscopic use-wear traces that can be applied to the analysis of archaeological pounding tools.
Datum: 15.08.2017


Lisht as a New Kingdom Glass-Making Site with Its Own Chemical Signature

Lisht is one of a few New Kingdom sites with known glass-working debris. Here, we present evidence for the primary production of glass at Lisht, including crucible fragments and semi-finished glass. We also provide 12 new chemical analyses of glass from Lisht, including trace elements. We argue that the glass made at Lisht has a specific chemical signature within the broader range of Late Bronze Age glass compositions from Egypt, further underlining the former existence of primary glass production there and offering the possibility of identifying Lisht-made glass elsewhere in Egypt and beyond.
Datum: 14.07.2017


Geochemical Methods for Sourcing Lava Paving Stones from the Roman Roads of Central Italy

This paper documents the results of in situ analysis of 306 lava paving stones and 74 possible source rocks using pXRF. Data were collected from sites both in the city of Rome—on major roads beyond the city (including the Viae Flaminia, Cassia, Clodia, Praenestina and Appia)—and in the city of Ostia. Comparison of the pXRF data with lava compositional data from the geological literature allows broad identification of possible sources. The results point to quite distinctive patterns of exploitation for the city of Rome and Ostia, utilizing the Alban Hills lava flows, and the roads of the middle Tiber Valley, drawing on lava flows associated with the Vico and Sabatini volcanoes. The results show the potential of pXRF to produce data to elucidate the exploitation of lava flows for paving the Roman roads.
Datum: 14.07.2017


Archaeomagnetic Dating of Pyrotechnological Contexts: a Case Study for Copper Smelting Sites in the Central Timna Valley, Israel

This study is focused on establishing age constraints for several copper slag deposits at the centre of the Timna Valley (Israel) via reconstruction of their ancient geomagnetic intensities as recorded by the individual slag samples at the time of their formation. The results show a correlation between the location of the slag deposits (labelled as individual ‘mounds’ in our survey) and their inferred ages, reflecting varying socio-economic and political dynamics in the region. While the slag mounds found at the unprotected foothills represent a variety of dates (mostly Early Islamic), the slag mounds on the hilltops are chronologically constrained to the early Iron Age (late 11th to 10th centuries bce), supporting the idea for a need for protection during this period. Furthermore, in comparing the new data with previous archaeomagnetic studies from Timna, we can assert the existence of simultaneous copper production at the archaeological Sites 30, 30a and 34. This gives further support to the claim of intense smelting in the central Timna Valley during the early Iron Age. Finally, this project demonstrates the potential of archaeomagnetic experiments to provide chronological insights, and their particular advantage in addressing pyrotechnology-related cases.
Datum: 28.06.2017


High-boron and High-alumina Middle Byzantine (10th–12th Century ce) Glass Bracelets: A Western Anatolian Glass Industry

The trace element boron is present in most ancient glasses as an impurity, and high boron (≥ 300 ppm) marks raw material sources that are geologically specific and relatively uncommon. Recent analyses of Byzantine glass with high boron contents suggest that glass-making was not limited to the traditional regions of the Levant and Egypt, and a production origin in or near western Anatolia is proposed. Glass bracelets from Ḥiṣn al-Tīnāt in southern Turkey give fresh evidence for the production and circulation of high-boron glasses that closely correlates with object typology. The patterning of findspots suggests that high-boron glass was closely connected to the Byzantine world.
Datum: 28.06.2017


The Social and Economic Complexity of Ancient Jerusalem as Seen Through Choices in Lighting Oils

This paper presents and discusses the results of residue analysis conducted on 78 ceramic lamps found in archaeological excavations in ancient Jerusalem, in an attempt to identify the types of oils used and the reasons for their preferential choice. The oil lamps chosen for the study were taken from a variety of contexts, which represent the different periods during which Jerusalem was settled and the different sectors of the city. The results of the study show that even the most mundane activity of lighting using oil held within it social and economic choices, as mirrored in the different excavation areas.
Datum: 23.06.2017


Multi-analytical Studies of Archaeological Chinese Earthen Plasters: The Inner Wall of the Longhu Hall (Yuzhen Palace, Ancient Building Complex, Wudang Mountains, China)

The Yuzhen Palace is one of the nine palaces in the Ancient Building Complex built by order of the Yongle Emperor during the Ming dynasty. The buildings were built with dressed black bricks. As a result of the planned national South–North Water Diversion project, the water level in the Danjiangkou Reservoir that surrounds the Yuzhen Palace was expected to rise by approximately 15 m. To avoid submersion of the site, three gates were elevated by 15 m in 2013 and other buildings dismantled, for later reconstruction. The characterization of the construction materials has therefore become of primary importance. Here, we present results on the plasters of the Longhu Hall. The analysis of materials involved a multi-analytical approach combining optical and electron microscopy with X-ray and vibrational spectromicroscopies and thermogravimetry. The results indicated the use of two earthen plaster layers and a whitewash finish coating applied over a thin preparatory intermediate layer to improve the adherence of the finish coating to the earthen plaster. Ramie and straw fibres identified in the earthen plasters were added to reduce shrinkage and cracking during drying. The raw materials used and the application technique pointed to a well-established construction industry using traditional earthen building materials together with lime technology.
Datum: 19.06.2017


The Potential of EBSD and EDS for Ceramics Investigations—Case Studies on Sherds of Pre-Columbian Pottery

The work focuses on the potential of structural and chemical examinations by scanning electron microscopy based methods for archaeometric studies on ceramics. Achieved by a single preparation technique (polished block sections), the feasibility and benefits of electron backscatter diffraction are demonstrated as case studies using polychrome examples of pre-Columbian pottery (Wari, Moche and Cajamarca). Elemental and phase maps allow for separate consideration of clay and temper. Identification of mineral phases and intergrowths of temper particles provide information for clarifying clay procurement and firing techniques with respect to local versus non-local pottery to enlighten trade relations, technological transfer and shared heritage of pre-Columbian cultures.
Datum: 16.06.2017


The Impact of Climate Change on an Archaeological Site in the Arctic

Climate change may accelerate the degradation of archaeological sites in the Arctic and lead to a loss of important historical information. This study assesses the current preservation conditions and the processes controlling the physical and chemical stability of the Qajaa kitchen midden in western Greenland. Currently, the site is well protected by low ground temperatures, permafrost and a high water/ice content, keeping the deposits anoxic. Based on 5 years of monitoring data, degradation experiments and model simulation, our results suggest that the combined effects of permafrost thaw, thermal and hydrological erosion and oxygen exposure may lead to substantial loss of archaeological evidence before the end of the 21st century.
Datum: 14.06.2017


Tracing the Distribution of Late 16th and Early 17th Century European Copper Artefacts in Southern Québec and Ontario, Canada

To understand the nature of trade/exchange of ‘Basque’ copper kettles and their fragments among Indigenous communities from Québec to Ontario, Canada, we examined 948 copper samples from 75 archaeological sites. We found that 936 samples were sortable into 11 coarse chemical groups: seven biased towards Ontario, three favouring Québec and only one balanced between the two provinces. This pattern may represent kettles and pieces ‘mostly traded’ or ‘mostly kept’ by Indigenous groups within Québec. Chemical group distribution within individual provinces is complex. A tentative chronology of copper chemical groups provides additional insight into the complex trading/exchange patterns among the Indigenous groups of southern Ontario.
Datum: 13.06.2017


The So-called Venetian Enamelled Copper Artworks of the Italian Renaissance: the Technology and Provenance of the Enamels—an Analytical Approach

The so-called Venetian enamelled coppers are a group of objects produced in Italy during the 15th century. Up to now, about 300 objects have been recognized in private collections and in European and US museums. At the end of 19th century, a Venetian origin was suggested, but their provenance is still debated. In this study, the enamel compositions from 22 enamelled copper products from Italian and French collections have been analysed by invasive and non-invasive techniques. A comparison of the results with Tuscan and Venetian glass databases reinforces the suggestion of a Tuscan (most probably Florentine) origin for these works of art.
Datum: 26.05.2017


Characterizing the Alabastro listato or fiorito of Hierapolis in Phrygia: A Simple Method to Identify its Provenance using Carbon Stable Isotopes

Alabastro listato or fiorito of Hierapolis in Phrygia was a prestigious coloured marble widely used in Roman architecture and decoration. This stone is generally identified in artefacts on autoptic examination, but it may sometimes be confused with alabasters of different provenances. This study describes a simple, but effective, scientific method to contribute to the determination of Hierapolis alabaster. Due to its unique genetic context, it is characterized by a distinctive carbon isotope signature. A comparison between the stable carbon isotope data from this paper and from the literature confirms the uniqueness of the isotopic character of Hierapolis alabaster. Carbon isotopes can ensure a reliably provenance attribution of the alabaster artefacts along with visual recognition by an expert eye.
Datum: 26.05.2017


A Study on Black-Body Celadon Excavated in The Altar Guan and Literature Ge (Longquan Ge) Kilns by EDXRF

Samples of celadon were collected from the Altar Guan Kiln in Hangzhou, and from the Xiaomeizhen and Xikou Kilns, two subordinate kilns of the Longquan Kiln producing black-body celadon called Literature Ge. Both the elemental contents in the sample bodies and the glaze were measured. The results reveal that the sample bodies contain fingerprint information for provenance, while this was lost in the glaze during the production process. The TiO2, MnO and Rb2O contained in the bodies are fingerprints to distinguish between celadons from the Xiaomeizhen and Xikou Kilns. In the Altar Guan Kiln, some low-TiO2 samples were found and their body colour is much lighter than some others, but they do not differ with regard to iron content. This indicates that both titanium and iron are indispensable for the blackness of the bodies: they may react to form some black minerals during the firing process. Ultimately, samples from the Literature Ge and Altar Guan Kilns differ in their body constituents. Principal component analysis reveals that the samples can be divided into two groups, corresponding to the two different areas.
Datum: 18.05.2017


Determination of the Fineness of Medieval Coins—Evaluation of Methods in a Case Study of a Medieval Pfennig

The original fineness of coins is very important information that can help us to understand the commercial situation in a wide historical context. This paper deals with a comparison of analytical methods suitable for the evaluation of the actual and original fineness of coins based on a detailed case study of a medieval coin sample. Both non-destructive (i.e., scanning electron microscopy/energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence, atomic force microscopy and hydrostatic weighing) and destructive (i.e., inductively coupled plasma – mass spectrometry and the Volhard titration method) techniques were used. The original fineness can be also deduced from knowledge of the internal structure of the coin (limited miscibility of copper and silver). A new analytical method based on a combination of a micrograph of the metallographic cross-section with consequent image analysis was developed for determination of the original fineness. The proposed approach is relatively simple and provides reliable values. Sample heterogeneity and its impact on the determination of fineness are also discussed.
Datum: 12.05.2017


Towards a Chronology of the Jerzmanowician—a New Series of Radiocarbon Dates from Nietoperzowa Cave (Poland)

The period around 50 000–35 000 years ago constitutes one of the most debated research issues in European archaeology of the Palaeolithic. In this time period, the transition from the Middle to the Upper Palaeolithic took place. Locally, in different areas of Europe, this shift is recorded in so-called transitional assemblages. The eastern fringe of these transitional assemblages is represented by the Jerzmanowician, the unit described on the basis of a lithic assemblage from Nietoperzowa Cave (Poland). The unit is a part of a European transitional complex called the Lincombian–Ranisian–Jerzmanowician. Up to now, the radiocarbon dates presented in the literature have only allowed us to set the age of the Jerzmanowician at c.40 000–45 000 ka cal bp. In this study, we present 42 new radiocarbon dates. We attempt to set the archaeological record of the Jerzmanowician from Nietoperzowa Cave in an accurate chronological framework, based on Bayesian statistical processing of radiocarbon dates. We conclude that the lower boundary of layer 6 in Nietoperzowa Cave can be statistically located in the range 44 000–42 000 cal bp and the upper limit for the Jerzmanowician is estimated to c.31 000 cal bp. New data raises a question on the correlation with upper layer 4. In the light of the new chronology, the attribution of the archaeological inventory from layer 4 to the Jerzmanowician seems questionable.
Datum: 12.05.2017


‘Guard the Good Deposit’: Technology, Provenance and Dating of Bipyramidal Iron Semi-Products of the Durrenentzen Deposit (Haut-Rhin, France)

In the early days of iron metallurgy in Western Europe, the most widespread type of ‘trade iron’ (semi-product) was bipyramidal in shape. Although they are frequently found, little is known about how they were manufactured and circulated, or even about their age. An interdisciplinary approach was applied to the Durrenentzen deposit (Haut-Rhin, France), the third-largest in Europe in terms of artefact quantities, in an attempt to reconstruct the technological, social and economic context that caused them to be abandoned. A morphometric study of the 51 iron bars revealed a high degree of homogeneity, despite variations in detail. Four objects were selected for archaeometric studies. Metallographic analyses show internal differences (quality of the material, nature of the alloys and manufacturing techniques). Chemical analyses also showed different provenances. Finally, radiocarbon analyses of the carbon in steel (iron/carbon alloy) linked this deposit to the early Iron Age. This study provided the first benchmark for more general research, significantly changing perceptions of the economics of iron at the beginning of the Iron Age.
Datum: 27.04.2017


Early Imports in the Late Bronze Age of South-Western Iberia: The Bronze Ornaments of the Hypogea at Monte da Ramada 1 (Southern Portugal)

The composition and manufacture of Late Bronze Age metallic artefacts from funerary and domestic contexts of southern inland Portugal was studied. The prevailing trend comprises binary bronzes (10.3 ± 2.1 wt% Sn) showing deformed equiaxial grains, annealing twins and slip bands. The alloy composition is somewhat independent of artefact type, while the manufacture seems to rely on artefact function and the skilfulness of the metallurgist. The technological characteristics were linked with archaeological and chronological features, disclosing some artefacts of uncommon composition, such as low-tin bronze bracelets (4.3–7.1 wt% Sn) associated with ornaments of exotic materials (glass and Egyptian faience beads, and also ostrich egg shell beads). The assemblage testifies to an archaic trade with the Mediterranean region before the establishment of the first Phoenician colonies on the southern Iberian coast.
Datum: 26.04.2017


The Evolution of the Vitruvian Recipes over 500 Years of Floor-Making Techniques: The Case Studies of the Domus delle Bestie Ferite and the Domus di Tito Macro (Aquileia, Italy)

The paper reports the results of a research project aimed at the characterization of the floor bedding mortars of two Roman houses in Aquileia (north-eastern Italy), the Domus delle Bestie Ferite and the Domus di Tito Macro. Seventy floor bedding mortars of the two domus were selected and almost half were fully minero-petrographically characterized by means of optical microscopy operated in transmitted light (OM-TL), X-ray powder diffraction analyses coupled with quantitative phase analysis by means of the Rietveld method (XRPD-QPA) and scanning electron microscopy with EDS microanalysis (SEM–EDS). The results indicate an evolution of the mortar preparation techniques over time in the mosaic of both houses. The materials are compared to the traditional Roman recipes for specific construction techniques.
Datum: 26.04.2017


The Chemical Composition and Production Area of Early Western Zhou Proto-Porcelain Unearthed from Yejiashan Cemetery, Suizhou, China

The bodies and glazes of 27 early Western Zhou proto-porcelain samples from Yejiashan cemetery, Hubei Province, were analysed using LA-ICP–AES, SEM, XRD, a thermal expansion instrument and other analytical methods. The results indicated that the bodies of all samples were characterized by high silicon and low aluminium, and were made with porcelain stone raw materials found in the south of China. The glazes are typical of high-temperature calcium glazes of the CaO (MgO) – K2O (Na2O) – Al2O3 – SiO2 series, with relatively high Mn and P content, which was probably caused by the addition of plant ashes. The physical properties and phase compositions of Yejiashan proto-porcelain show that firing processes were still in the early stages of development in ancient China. Multivariate statistical analyses indicated that Yejiashan proto-porcelain might have come from the Deqing area, in Zhejiang Province. These results provide new archaeological evidence for research on issues related to material flow in the Western Zhou dynasty.
Datum: 26.04.2017


Examination and Analysis of Etruscan Wall Paintings at Caere, Italy

In 1983, the excavation of the ancient city of Caere near Rome, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, led to the unearthing of an underground sanctuary dating from the early third century bc. Known as the ‘Hypogaeum of Clepsina’, it consists of an underground room decorated with frescoes, drawings and inscriptions. The initiation of a new excavation campaign at Caere in 2012 provided the opportunity to study this rare example of Etruscan wall paintings of a non-sepulchral nature from the Hellenistic era. The paintings were documented, photographed and samples were removed for analysis using a combination of scientific techniques. The observation that at least some of the painting was done on wet plaster supports the conclusion that the frescos are contemporaneous to the plastering of the walls in the hypogaeum in approximately 273 bc. The plaster is lime-based and aggregate materials include potassium feldspar, clinopyroxene, quartz, hematite and magnetite. No organic binding medium was identified in the paint, suggesting a lime water binder. Paint materials identified are Egyptian blue, red iron oxide (hematite), yellow iron oxide (goethite), charcoal black, quartz, silicates and calcite. All the paint samples show a mineral accretion layer at the upper surface, caused by recrystallization of salts.
Datum: 26.04.2017


The Contribution of Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) to Understanding Pre-Columbian Goldwork Technology

This paper highlights the contribution of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) when combined with scanning electron microscopy and energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis (SEM/XEDS) to characterize objects in archaeology. The application of TEM in archaeology is not yet a common tool, but it may provide data that are significant to understanding pre-Columbian gold metallurgy, specifically the gilding and silvering methods. Two gilded rods were studied using a combination of TEM and SEM/XEDS techniques. The objects were found at the Atacames archaeological site, in the Esmeraldas region, Ecuador, which was occupied between ad 750 and 1526 by the Atacames culture. The microchemical and structural results of the inner and the external gilded part of the artefacts support the hypothesis of a gold diffusion to the surface enhanced by chemical treatment with chloride-rich solutions, heating and successive annealing processes. The present study reveals that microstructural investigation by TEM provides useful information with which to investigate the techniques used to modify the chemical surface composition of pre-Columbian artefacts.
Datum: 26.04.2017


Electrochemical Characterization and Dating of Archaeological Leaded Bronze Objects Using the Voltammetry of Immobilized Particles

The application of solid state electrochemistry techniques for the characterization and dating of leaded bronze objects is described. Characteristic voltammetric signatures of copper and lead corrosion products were used as markers of more or less prolonged corrosion periods. The proposed methodology was applied to samples from the Roman archaeological sites of Valeria (Spain) and Gadara (Jordan), Roman and medieval sites in Xàtiva (Spain), and modern statuary exhibited outdoors, on the campus of the Universitat Politècnica of Valencia, Spain, covering a time interval between the fourth to second century bc and the 20th century ad. For such samples, the ratio between the signals for copper and lead corrosion products decreased monotonically with the corrosion time. This variation was modelled on the basis of thermochemical and kinetic considerations, the experimental data being consistent with a potential rate law for the corrosion process.
Datum: 20.04.2017


Stable Isotope and Radiocarbon Dating of the Remains of the Medieval Royal House of Aragon (Spain) Shed Light on Their Diets, Life Histories and Identities

The remains of 20 individuals buried in three different pantheons, putatively pertaining to the medieval Royal House of Aragon, were analysed for their isotope (14C, 13C and 15N) measurements. The radiocarbon dates and stable isotope data contributed to identifying individual members and, combined with additional osteological and taphonomic information, as well as documentary evidence, provided a fuller picture of the diets and life histories of particular people. This group comprised the first members of a royal dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Aragon before the Spanish Crown was established, and that played a significant role in the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslim control, this being of paramount importance in the Spanish and European history.
Datum: 20.04.2017


Identification of the Residue in the Bolgar Medieval Sphero-Conical Vessel by Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry

The Golden Horde sphero-conical vessel retrieved from the ruins of the medieval city of Bolgar (Russia, Republic of Tatarstan) during archaeological excavations, which contained residue in the form of encrustation on the bottom and the wall, was analysed in the NRC ‘Kurchatov Institute’ by X-ray phase analysis and high-performance liquid and gas chromatography with MS detectors (HPLC–MS, GC–MS). The GC–MS method established that the residue from the sphero-conical vessel was comprised primarily of abietic acid derivatives (around 46%) and retene, which is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (around 27%); this means that turpentine exuded from the stems of certain species of coniferous trees, called resin and subsequently heat-treated, was poured into the vessel. Researchers have been trying to decipher the function of these mysterious vessels for 200 years, and this is the first time that resin stored in a sphero-conical vessel has been documented. Potentially, this vessel was probably used as a personal ‘medical kit’.
Datum: 20.04.2017


A Better Shade of Black: Effects of Manufacturing Parameters on the Development of Ancient Black Bronzes*

Copper alloys with controlled contents of Sn, Ag and Au were treated with methods and solutions that mimic those used in ancient and traditional procedures for the production of black bronze. Examination of the resulting patinas with colorimetry, SEM–EDS, TEM, Raman spectroscopy and XRD revealed no systematic differences according to the fabrication method, whereas patina homogeneity and colour in those alloys that did not contain precious metal were affected by superficial work. Patina microstructure determines adherence and coverage, and depends upon the solution used irrespective of the alloy composition, but the colour of the patina is mainly related to the alloy composition. Gold promotes the development of cuprite, slowing the oxidation to tenorite in the corrosion process. Gold additions produce a more uniform patina as well as a desirable blue–black tone, which is likely to have been a factor in alloy selection.
Datum: 06.04.2017


On the Metal-Leaf Decorations of Post-Byzantine Greek Icons

Metal leaves were widely used as decorative materials in post-Byzantine ritual painting. Fifty-two icons (mid-15th to mid-19th centuries) were studied by means of analytical techniques in order to reveal the materials and techniques encountered in their metal-leaf decorations. High-purity gold leaf was used throughout the studied period. Silver was employed rarely and mostly during the latter part of the period in consideration, while metal powders were mostly used from the mid-18th century onwards. The identification of a gold–silver powder mixture and an ‘electrum’-type alloy are among the reported findings, which are novel for post-Byzantine icons. Three micromorphologically distinct highlighting techniques were also documented.
Datum: 06.04.2017


Integrated Analytical Techniques for the Study of Colouring Materials from Two Megalithic Barrows

We have determined the composition of rock art pigments from two megalithic barrows located in the north of Portugal. The use of XRD, SEM–EDS and FT–IR spectroscopy confirmed the presence of hematite and kaolinite in the red pigments from the Eireira barrow, and kaolinite in the white pigment from the Leira das Mamas barrow. The organic composition of the pigments was studied by GC–MS, suggesting that the red sinuous lines and dots from the Eireira barrow were prepared with cooked or heated algae and/or aquatic plants, with egg as binder, while the white pigment from the Leira das Mamas barrow revealed a mixture of vegetable oils for kaolinite moulding, which could be stabilized by temporary exposure to high temperatures. The multi-analytical approach used on this study of megalithic pigments allowed the recovery of important data about north-western prehistoric communities, namely the way in which they exploited existing resources and their ability to transform them.
Datum: 03.04.2017


A Multi-Analytical Approach to the Study of the Mural Paintings in the Presbytery of Santa Maria Antiqua Al Foro Romano in Rome

This paper presents the results of analyses carried out on three decorative phases of the presbytery of the church of Santa Maria Antiqua al Foro Romano in Rome: the fourth-century ad mosaics setting bed; the Adoration of the Cross, dated to the papacy of John VII (ad 705–7); and the paintings in the apse of the Pope Paul I (ad 757–68) phase. The research allowed the characterization of the painting techniques, pigments, organic compounds and degradation products by means of a video microscope, optical microscopy, and μ-Raman and FT–IR spectroscopy, contributing to a better understanding of the changes in the techniques and materials used throughout the centuries in one of the most relevant medieval Christian monuments in Western Europe.
Datum: 28.03.2017


Chemical Alteration of Lithic Artefacts: an Experimental Case Study on the effect of Guano on Stone Flakes and Its Contextualization in the Archaeological Assemblage of Azokh Cave (Southern Caucasus)

Chemical weathering of archaeological material is well known; however, while there have been a number of experimental studies demonstrating different types and degrees of chemical alteration on faunal remains, little attention has been paid to stone tools, and the few studies that exist relate mainly to siliceous materials and water-induced chemical alteration. Azokh Cave, located in the South Caucasus, contains a Middle Pleistocene to Holocene infill, and detailed macro- and microscopic examination of the lithic assemblages recovered there indicates potential chemical weathering of the stone artefacts. The cave is also currently home to one of the largest bat colonies in the region, and their guano forms a significant component of the infill of the inner galleries. Based on these two factors, an experimental pilot study was set up to artificially chemically alter a range of stone flakes produced specifically for the task, in order to determine the nature and likely cause of weathering. The experimental flakes, produced from different raw materials, were buried in fresh bat guano for up to two years. The results reported herein demonstrate that in a relatively short time, the highly acidic composition of bat guano strongly affects calcium-bearing rocks (e.g., limestone, basalt) altering their entire surface. Similar comparisons may be made with chemical alteration evident on archaeological lithics from Azokh Cave, suggesting that bat guano has played a significant role in diagenetic alteration.
Datum: 13.03.2017


C4-Plant Foraging in Northern Italy: Stable Isotopes, Sr/Ca and Ba/Ca Data of Human Osteological Samples from Roccapelago (16th–18th Centuries AD)

Human osteological samples (n = 23) taken from different anatomical parts of 11 individuals from the early modern (16th–18th century AD) site of Roccapelago (Modena, Italy) were systematically analysed for δ13C, δ15N and trace elements to investigate their diet. δ13C and δ15N correlate and show a high variability between individuals, attesting to the dietary contribution of C4 plants. This is supported by pollen analysis of the burial site samples, which revealed the presence of maize. δ15N correlates with Sr/Ca, suggesting that the main protein source could have been milk and dairy. We therefore interpret the strong correlation between δ13C and δ15N as evidence for C4-plant foraging practice and the exploitation of livestock for meat and milk, combined with possible direct intake of C4 plants. The Roccapelago site represents an important case study to track the evolution of the post-medieval diet and the introduction of maize cultivation in southern Europe, as also attested by historical sources.
Datum: 13.03.2017


Compositional Analysis of Ceramics from Goguryeo Fortified Sites in Central Korea

The aim of this paper is to investigate whether the ceramics from the Goguryeo fortified sites of the Han River region in central Korea were manufactured and consumed locally during the southern expansion of the Goguryeo State (475–551 ce). For this research, 88 ceramic samples from seven contemporary sites in the southern territories of Goguryeo were sampled and analysed by ceramic thin-section petrography and neutron activation analysis (NAA). In addition, to establish a possible chemical fingerprint at Hongryeonbong Fort 2, five clay specimens were also gathered and analysed from the pottery firing structure. The results of this analytical study indicate that the majority of the ceramics from the Goguryeo fortified sites of central Korea were produced and circulated within this newly acquired region. In addition, it is highly probable that Hongryeonbong Fort, which contains the remains of what may be ceramic firing architecture, is the place of production for the ceramics.
Datum: 13.03.2017


Multi-Technique Characterization of Adhesives Used in Medieval Jewellery

In this work, a multi-technique analytical approach was used to characterize adhesive samples taken from medieval chef d'oeuvres jewellery, three manuscript bindings and a crucifix produced in northern Italy between the 8th and the 11th century ad, according to art-historical evaluation and 14C dating executed on adhesives. These materials being complex mixtures, mostly of organic/inorganic nature, various analytical techniques were utilized to thoroughly elucidate their composition. A preliminary survey with portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), applied in situ, suggested the presence of inorganic phases. X-ray diffraction analysis was used to identify crystalline phases. Fourier transform – infrared and Raman spectroscopies were used to identify the major components. Finally, gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry was used to identify, in the most accurate way possible, the organic compounds present in the mixtures. The combined approach of non-invasive measurements, applied for the first time to such precious objects, and of micro-invasive techniques allowed a complete characterization of the samples, widening the present view on such poorly studied materials.
Datum: 13.03.2017


Hydraulic Evaluation of the Design and Operation of Ancient Rome's Anio Novus Aqueduct

This paper evaluates conveyance and flow characteristics for the Anio Novus, the aqueduct bringing water from the greatest distance to ancient Rome. Travertine accumulations, deposited from water on floor and walls, were used to reconstruct the flow rate and associated spatial and temporal variations. Hydraulic quantities (e.g., flow depth and velocity) markedly varied over the course of the aqueduct, implying that constraints such as topography and construction techniques were combined with hydraulic considerations to determine the aqueduct layout. Design practices differed along the aqueduct and channel size design was not based exclusively on anticipated carrying capacity, tending towards larger-than-necessary design based on experience.
Datum: 09.03.2017


Magnetic Alteration of Soils by Late Holocene Hunter–Gatherer Groups (Tierra Del Fuego, South America)

The present work aims to analyse the magnetic signature from the Late Holocene open-air archaeological deposits of hunter–gatherer ephemeral occupations. For this purpose, two profiles were sampled at the Marazzi 2 site in the north-western Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, Chile, in order to carry out studies of magnetic susceptibility, hysteresis cycles, back-field remanent magnetization, isothermal remanent magnetization and thermal variation of magnetic susceptibility at high and low temperature. Despite short-term occupations, the P1 profile shows a magnetic peak at a depth of ~30–70 cm due to magnetite, probably formed by anthropogenic activity related to combustion. The P2 profile instead yields an anomalous peak of coercivity (at a depth of 20–40 cm), which could also be anthropogenic, due to the presence of finely dispersed ancient ‘red ochre’. The red ochre is proposed to form anthropogenic thermal alteration of goethite associated with volcanic ash, the remnants of which were found in thin sections from the P2 subsoil.
Datum: 22.02.2017


A Pigment Characterization Approach to Selection of Dating Methods and Interpretation of Rock Art: The Case of the Mikinak Site, Lake Wapizagonke, Quebec, Canada

Dating is perhaps the most frequently asked question in rock art studies, but still one of the most difficult to answer. However, chronology is vital in order to understand and interpret rock art sites. Unfortunately, attempts at dating the Mikinak site, at Lake Wapizagonke, Quebec, Canada were unsuccessful. But a multi-instrumental protocol applied to characterize paintings shows that at least three different paint recipes were employed to create the site. These may reflect three different phases of paintings, and that at least three different artists contributed to the production of this site.
Datum: 16.02.2017


Wine Bottles From Lisbon: Archaeometric Studies Of Two Archaeological Sites Dated From The 17th To The 19th Century

Two sets of wine bottles dated between the end of the 17th and the 19th centuries were characterized by means of μ-PIXE (major and minor elements) and LA–ICP–MS (trace and REE elements). The fragmented wine bottles were recovered from two archaeological contexts in Lisbon and reach a total of 79 fragments. One of the archaeological bottle sets comes from a house structure that collapsed during the major earthquake in 1755, providing a precise terminus ante quem. The second set comes from the exploratory archaeological intervention performed in Rua do Arsenal, where the Côrte-Real Palace (built in the 16th century), was discovered. From this site, posterior contexts dated up to the 19th century were considered. This systematic study allowed the glass to be identified as high-lime, low-alkali (HLLA) for all the considered chronologies. However, the 19th-century bottles have a different HLLA composition, suggesting the use of synthetic soda. Comparison with data from literature showed some similarity with English, Belgium and French reported compositions. This is the first systematic attempt to characterize the composition of glass wine bottles circulating in Portugal, giving new insights into their probable provenances, and on the exchange between Portugal and its trading allies.
Datum: 10.02.2017


Fuel For Lamps: Organic Residues Preserved in Iron Age Lamps Excavated at the Site of Sahab in Jordan

Five Iron Age ceramic lamps from a tomb at the site of Sahab in the south-eastern part of central Jordan were analysed using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC–MS). The results of this study provide data on the type of fuel used in three of these lamps. The study proposes that animal fat, possibly of ruminant origin, was used in three Early Iron Age II lamps. The material used in the other two Iron Age I lamps could not be determined due to the absence of diagnostic biomarkers. The data obtained from the lamps can be put in conjunction with the archaeological evidence on the availability of domestic animals and, most probably, use of their products at the site of Sahab during the Iron Age.
Datum: 08.02.2017


Polarized Light Microscopy: An Old Technique Casts New Light on Māori Textile Plants

Understanding the composition of an artefact has ramifications for advancing human history and behaviour knowledge, providing cultural information about trade, agricultural practices and adaptation to new environments. However, accurate plant identification from artefacts is problematic, since textile production, age, dirt and/or conservation treatments obscure morphological features, and specimen size and/or ethical considerations hamper modern analytical methods. This study tested the efficacy of polarized light microscopy (PLM) in the identification of New Zealand plant species commonly used in Māori textiles, and demonstrates that morphological and birefringent features observed using PLM have the potential to distinguish between- and within-plant genera.
Datum: 08.02.2017


The Resinous Cargo of the Java Sea Wreck

A number of blocks of resinous materials were found in the cargo of a 12th- to 13th-century shipwreck, discovered in the late 1980s in the Java Sea near the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java and excavated in 1996. These well-preserved blocks presumably were trade materials used for religious, medicinal, cosmetic, decorative or practical purposes. Such materials, derived from plants and termed exudates, generally include frankincense, myrrh, ‘gum benjamin’, liquidambar, dragon's blood, dammar, copal and amber. The source of the cargo resin could not be determined from the site. Investigation by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy has revealed that the molecular structure corresponds to that of modern resin from the plant family Dipterocarpaceae, known in trade as dammar and closely resembling Group B copal and amber. Other molecular classes of exudates are excluded. Such materials are not present in the Middle East, which then cannot be their source. The NMR spectra differ from those of Group B samples from Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, but resemble those from India or Japan. The spectra indicate that the saline environment had a similar effect on the molecular structure to heating and aging.
Datum: 03.02.2017


New analytical methods for comparing bone fracture angles: A controlled study of hammerstone and hyena (Crocuta crocuta) long bone breakage

Accurate interpretation of the cause and timing of bone breakage is essential for understanding the archaeological record. However, many variables potentially influencing break morphology have yet to be systematically explored. Focusing primarily on hammerstone breakage, we introduce new analytical methods for comparing fracture angles using the absolute values of the angle from 90°. We systematically control for intrinsic variables such as taxon, skeletal element, limb portion and skeletal age. We also compare experimental assemblages of femora broken by hammerstone and spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). We show that fracture angles are influenced by breakage plane, skeletal element and limb portion. While the latter two have been suggested before, this is the first time the differences have been quantified. We suggest that researchers stratify their assemblages by these variables if they are using fracture angles in analyses. At the assemblage level, hyenas created more oblique fracture angles on oblique breaks than did hammerstones.
Datum: 10.01.2017


Evidence of Soldering Technology on Pre-Columbian Gold Pendants from Western and North-Western Colombia

Microscopic examination and analysis (metallography, X-radiography, SEM–EDS, pXRF and μ-XRF) of a group of stylistically linked gold alloy pendants from western and north-western Colombia confirms the use of a highly unusual manufacturing technique for the region. While the Darién pendants were made using lost-wax casting by a diverse group of cultures from southern Colombia through Costa Rica, only one subset of pendants produced in the Gran-Zenú region (the Caribbean lowlands of northern Colombia) and the Chocó region (the Pacific area of western Colombia) in the Early Period (ad 0–900) was found to be manufactured by hammering of gold sheet and fine wires followed by hard soldering of components to produce true filigree. Similarities in features between the stylistically related cast and hammered pendants suggest that the hammered pendants may have served as a prototype for the cast versions. Other possible instances of hard soldering in the region are also presented.
Datum: 10.01.2017


Ancient ‘Black’ Decorative Stones and the Ephesian Origin of Sculptural bigio antico

Isotopic, EPR and petrographic studies aimed at establishing the provenance of sculptural bigio antico are reported, including 18 possible quarry sites and 21 ancient sculptures. The results demonstrate that the Belevi quarry, north-east of Ephesos, above the more famous white marble quarry, was the major source of this marble. Nineteen artefacts belong to Belevi, whereas the precise origin of the remaining two is unknown, but must probably be found within the same area. The peculiar distribution of δ13C values both for Belevi and artefacts was crucial for inferring the correct provenance, subsequently confirmed by additional analytical and petrographic data.
Datum: 05.01.2017


1500 Years of Pottery: Neutron Activation Analysis of Northern Chilean Domestic Ceramics from Caleta Vitor and Clay Samples from Nearby Valley, Coast and Highland Contexts

This paper presents the findings arising from neutron activation analysis (NAA) of northern Chilean domestic ceramic samples from Caleta Vitor (n = 38) and clay samples (n = 15) from nearby valley, coast and highland contexts. This study presents the first NAA data set of ceramics spanning a temporal period of 1500 years (c.2000 to c.476 bp) from the Vitor Valley as well as the first attempt to use NAA to characterize potential clay sources in the region. On the basis of this study, we argue that the majority of domestic ceramics from Caleta Vitor share compositional similarities with clay samples collected from nearby valleys, allowing us to infer that the Caleta Vitor populations primarily procured their clay for domestic ceramics from local sources throughout a 1500-year period. Thus, despite the fact that there were inter-regional interactions during this period that included the influence of powerful Andean polities, it would appear that domestic ceramics continued to be produced locally, and by implication it can be argued that such interactions did not substantially affect this sphere of material culture production. Further, the apparent continuities in domestic ceramic production allow us to reflect on local decision-making processes throughout the cultural phases considered in this research.
Datum: 16.12.2016


Synchrotron Radiation–Induced X-Ray Fluorescence (SRXRF) Analyses Of The Bernstorf Gold

The gold finds from Bernstorf, in the Freising district of Bavaria, were discovered in 1998, in the area of a Bronze Age settlement. First analyses with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) revealed gold of an unusually high purity grade, which was explained by the use of cementation techniques. A newer analysis with laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS) indicated an even higher purity. The analytical results were the starting point of an ongoing discussion. In this study, we re-analysed 11 gold samples with synchrotron radiation–induced X-ray fluorescence at the BAMline at BESSY. In a thorough analysis, different excitation and detection conditions were applied to confirm or disprove the previous results. It was shown that the purity of the gold from the specimen is higher than 99.9%. The main impurities are silver in a range between 20 and 200 μg g−1 and copper between 1 and 10 μg g−1. The results are in very good agreement with the LA–ICP–MS measurements and provide basic information for discussions about provenance, processing techniques or considerations of authenticity.
Datum: 06.12.2016


Was He Murdered or Was He Not?—Part II: Multi-Elemental Analyses of Hair and Bone Samples from Tycho Brahe and Histopathology of His Bones

Hair and bone samples procured from the remains of Tycho Brahe were analysed by several analytical techniques. In segmented hair samples, concentrations of Fe, As, Ag and Au at the tips exceeded values for the contemporary population; however, they decreased towards the hair bulbs, similarly to Hg, indicating that recent exposure that was discontinued ~2 months prior to Brahe's death. Several other elements did not follow this pattern. Analyses of bones revealed signs of long-term exposure to Au, while many other elements were within expected ranges. Histopathological examination of bone sections yielded no signs of severe bone metabolic disorders.
Datum: 28.11.2016






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