Project: “Provenance of archaeological artifacts: Keys to understanding ancient societies”

Project: “Provenance of archaeological artifacts: Keys to understanding ancient societies”



The relation between natural sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, geology) and social sciences (e.g., archaeology) has a long history. It arises from the need for scientific data which may help to answer general and particular questions which always have and forever will preoccupy the mind when various artifacts are found at archaeological sites, e.g., from what kind of materials are they made, how were these objects manufactured, where are they from, were they produced locally or imported? The ceramic objects remain preserved and unchanged over many years of burial and their provenance provides genuine information about the past systems of production as well as the exchange of goods, ideas and technology.

Ceramic construction materials (e.g., bricks and tiles) and pottery are obtained from similar raw materials, i.e., clay and temper. Ceramic artifacts found at various prehistoric and historic sites will be studied by an integrated approach, combining archaeological, mineralogical, physical, chemical and geological analytical methods. The methods include mainly polarized light optical microscopy, X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe, scanning electron microscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, Fourier transform infrared spectrometry, and electron paramagnetic resonance. The first insight into the mineralogy of the matrix and the composition of the inclusions are obtained by optical microscopy. The X-ray diffraction and electron microprobe show in particular the nature of the clay minerals of which the ceramic body is comprised, consequently indicating the clays from which the objects were made. On the other hand, the inclusions composition reflects the type of the tempering material.

The comparison of the composition and chemistry of different groups of the ceramic artifacts with sediments sampled in the area of the site discriminates between local production and imports and also indicate enhancement procedures which the raw materials underwent.


2017-2019 (29 months)
Budget: 846,250 RON

Acronim: APROACH
Project code: PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0229

Contract nr. 138 ⁄ 2017