Raising the temper—μ-spot analysis of temper inclusions in experimental ceramics

Johannes H. Sterba, Frans Munnik, Nicholas John Geoffrey Pearce

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2 Citations (SciVal)


Provenancing of ancient ceramics is a highly important scientific tool for archaeological studies. In general, ceramics are not made from the original clay as it is found in deposits. To produce the needed physical properties in the finished product, the clay has to be either tempered by adding sands or biological materials, or levigated, to remove the coarse fraction. Thus, the chemical composition of the finished ceramic differs from the composition of the original clay bed. To overcome this obfuscation, any information that can be gained about the temper is useful. In a small series, several pieces of ceramic were produced from known clay and tempers and the resulting ceramics analysed by neutron activation analysis (NAA). As many attempts to physically separate the temper from the clay matrix have failed, μ-spot analysis of temper inclusions was performed at the microbeam particle induced X-ray Emission (μ-PIXE) facility in Rossendorf and with laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (LA-ICP-MS) at the Aberystwyth University in Wales. It could be shown that from a small number of measurements, a general impression of the temper used could be gained. Furthermore the μ-spot methods and the bulk data gained from INAA are highly comparable, extending the set of elements that can be measured. With this information, the influence of the temper on the bulk composition of the finished product can be estimated, which potentially adds crucial information to subsequent dilution calculations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-35
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2011


  • Ceramics
  • Temper
  • Archaeometry
  • Dilution calculation
  • μ-PIXE


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