Ian C. Freestone (1992). Ceramic Petrography. American Journal of Archaeology, 99, 111-115.

A short, but succinct, discussion of the important components in the use of ceramic petrology (via petrographic microscopy and geochemical analysis). The points I would wish to emphasize are "geology of the study area" and "a sufficient sample size."

Ian K. Whitbread (1995) We are what we study: Problems in communication and collaboration between ceramologists and archaeological scientists. In: Anders Lindahl and Ole Stilborg (eds.) The Aim of Laboratory Analyses of Ceramic in Archaeology, KVHAA Konferenser (Stockholm), 34, 91-100.

Although this essay is from 1995, it still has relevance in the issue of communication between archaeologically-trained ceramics investigators and those of us from the geologically-trained realm.

Andrew Middleton (1997). Ceramic Petrography. Rev. do Museu de Arqueologia e Etnologia, Sao Paulo, Suplemento 2, 73-79.

Another short but useful introductory paper where the points I would wish to emphasize are the "temper" and "provenace" discussion.

John C. Whittaker and Michael Stafford (1999). Replicas, fakes, and art: The Twenthieth Century Stone Age and its effects on archaeology. American Antiquity, 64(2), 203-214.

A paper we all should read. My reasons were a lance point (Clovis style) found composed of a beautiful micaceous quartz sandstone in a field area I was mapping that were dominated by rhyolitic welded ash-flow tuffs (where the nearest sedimentary rock was a LONG way away). Hmmmmmm - is it real?

Ervan G. Garrison (2001). Physics and Archaeology. Physics Today, 54(10), 32-36.

A good overview paper on the techniques of physics (and chemistry) that are currently being applied to archaeology (including ceramic petrology). Ervan is at University of Georgia at Athen and is a specialist in ground penetrating radar (GPR). This is a good paper for your introductory reading list - I gave it out in Mineralogy to show what is being accomplished with a little cross-disciplinary work.

PRECISION and the SEARCH for ACCURACY (in other words, how good are my analyses?)

Ronald L. Bishop, Veletta Canouts, Patricia L. Crown and Suzanne P. De Atley (1990). Sensitivity, precision and accuracy: Their roles in ceramic composition data bases. American Antiquity, 55(3), 537-546.

My personal bias is that you really have to 'feel' that your results are good before trying to tell everyone else what you found. Here is a good introduction to the questions that you need to address anytime you obtain data on your samples.

M. James Blackman (1992). The Effect of Human Size Sorting on the Mineralogy and Chemistry of Ceramic Clays. In Hector Neff (ed.) Chemical Characterization of Ceramic Pastes in Archaeology, Monographs in World Archaeology No. 7, Prehistory Press, Madison, Wisconsin, 113-124.

This is a paper worth reading - as it addresses a common question "How much does the potter affect the mineralogy of the pot?" This study is for late 3rd Millennium ceramics from Syria - so the final conclusions may different from what you would expect if you examined Wedgewood pottery or fritted ceramics from southern England - where the materials (clays and frit) are manufactured to a specific "recipe". The only 'quibble' that is important to address is the uncertainity in the chemical analyses for the elements. For example, sodium and potassium may have large uncertainities (in X-ray fluoresence analysis, the analytical uncertainity for sodium could be as much as 20% of the measured value). It is important to have and show that information - strengthens your argument and leads to better interpretations.


L. van der Plas and A. C. Tobi (1965). A chart for judging the reliability of point counting results. American Journal of Science, 263, 87-90.

Probably the most used statistical reference for point counting - however there are some problems with its use (see some of these other papers) - this is where the concept of "300 points ought be good enough" was calcified in the petrographic literature. For the primary reference they use, see Chayes (1956) in the book reference section of this site.

Appendix: Petrographic Analysis of Sandstone. In: F. J. Pettijohn, P.E. Potter and R. Siever (1972), Sand and Sandstone, Springer-Verlag, Berlin. 584-588.

Here is a quick guide to the petrographic interpretation of sandstones - which are often very similar to medium- to coarse-grained quartz (or feldspar) tempered ceramics (such as pre-Contact Indian wares of the southeastern United States). You ought look at this appendix, photocopy the grain-size and counting statistics diagrams for use in any petrographic work.

A.P. Middleton, I.C. Freeston, and M.N. Leese (1985). Textural analysis of ceramic thin sections: evaluation of grain sampling procedures Archaeometry, 27(1), 64-74

James B. Stoltman (1989). A quantitative approach to the petrographic analysis of ceramic thin-sections. American Antiquity, 54 (1), 147-160.

A pretty concise and useful guide which update the classic Chayes (1954) treatise on point counting - plus Stoltman does not go ballastic on systematics.



Richard J. Howarth (1998). Improved estimators of uncertainity in proportions, point-counting and pass-fail test results. American Journal of Science, 298, 564-607.

This is a re-evaluation of the van der Plas and Tobi (1965) error analysis for point-counting. It is more statistically rigorous - but I am not certain (at this time) how practical it is for sherds or rocks. I am compiling a large set of count data on the same sherds to evaluate the practical differences (I will get back to you on this one).

Anatal Jasrai, Miklos Kozak, and Peter Rozsa (1997). Comparison of the methods of rocks: Microscopic grain-size determination and quantitative analysis. Mathematical Geology, 29(8), 977-991.

Pretty dense - mostly a derivation of the statistical interpretation of point-counting (a la Chayes). The point of this paper is that strip counting for mineral distribution (and grain-size analysis) is the most applicable based on degree of uncertainity. However, this paper is based on an assumption that the grain size distribution in the sample is normal (or close to it) - from this they define the aribitrary step spacing for the count procedure. I think there are some problems here - but it may work out - I am going to try and test this with sherds.

J. M. Heidke and E. J. Miksa (2000). Correspondence and discriminant analyses of sand and sand temper compositions, Tonto Basin, Arizona. Archaeometry, 42 (2), 273-299.

A good example of what you can do with petrographic point counting (as well as ideas on what will not work or is not statistically significant).


I. K. Whitbread (1986). The characterization of argillaceous inclusions in ceramic thin sections. Archeometry, 28(1), 79-88

Daniel L. Simpkins and Dorothy J. Allard (1986). Isolation and identification of Spanish Moss fiber from a sample of Stallings and Orange Series ceramics. American Antiquity, 51 (1), 102-117.

Since I have been doing some research on fiber-tempered wares, I have been accumulating some references. Here is another on the "palmetto frond" temper.

Jeffrey P. Brain and Drexel Peterson (1970). Palmetto Tempered Pottery. Bulletin, 13, 70-76.

Other "temper' components are just as varied.

Ninina Cuomo di Caprio and Sarah Vaughan (1993). An experimental study in distinguishing grog (chamotte) from argillaceous inclusions in ceramic thin sections. Archeomaterials, 7(1), 21-40.


Other methods to examine temper.

Pamela Vandiver, William A. Ellingso, Thomas K. Robinson, John J. Lobick, and Frederick H. Seguin (1991). New applications of X-radiographic imaging technologies for archaeological ceramics. Archeomaterials, 5 (2), 185-207.

Christopher Carr and Jean-Christophe Komorowski (1995). Identifying the mineralogy of rock temper in ceramics using X-radiography. American Antiquity, 60 (4), 723-749.

A possible useful technique for situations where they will not let you make thin-sections. However, it may be a bit more difficult to discern the identity (mineralogy) of the rock fragments - note the blind study results - as well as the problem of image characterization. Plus, you need some X-ray gear (dental or osteo - plus the film/digital imager).


John S. Isaacson and Thomas F. Aleto (1989). Petrographic analysis of ceramic thin sections from La Puna Island, Ecuador. Archeomaterials, 3, 61-67.

Alan Vince (1989). The petrography of Saxon and early Medieval pottery in the Thames Valley. In: Julian Henderson (ed.) Scientific Analysis in Archeology. University of Oxford, Committee for Archaeology, Monograph 19, pp. 163-177 (Chapter 7).

J. Donahue, D.R. Watters and S. Millspaugh (1990). Thin section petrography of northern Lesser Antilles ceramics. Geoarcheology, 5(3), 229-254.

Christopher M. Gerrard (1991). Sedimentary petrology and the archaeologist: the study of ancient ceramics. In: Morton, A.C., Todd, S.P. and Haughton, P.D.W. (eds.) Developments in Sedimentary Provenance Studies, Geological Society Special Publications No. 57, 189-197.

Stacey C. Jordan, Carmel Schrire and Duncan Miller (1999). Petrography of locally produced pottery from the Dutch Colonial Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 1327-1337.


The following papers by Cordell and Hegmon are good examples of what you can do with temper and provenance determination.

Ann S. Cordell (1993). Chronological variability in ceramic paste: A comparison of Deptford and Savannah period pottery in the St. Mary's River region of northeast Florida and southeast Georgia. Southeastern Archaeology, 12(1), 33-58.

Michelle Hegmon (1995). Pueblo I ceramic production in southwest Colorado: Analyses of igneous rock temper. Kiva, 60 (3), 371-390.

Thomasa S. Dye (1996) Sources of sand temper in prehistoric Tongan pottery. Geoarcheology, 11(2), 141-164.


The paper by Dickinson et al is a nice example of work in the Pacific and especially useful if you are working with either carbonates or volcanoclastic sediments and are trying to figure out how to correlate.

William R. Dickinson, Brian M. Butler, Darlene R. Moore and Marilyn Swift (2001) Geologic source and geographic distribution of sand tempers in prehistoric potsherds from the Mariana Islands. Geoarcheology, 16(8), 827-854.

Moshe Wieder and David Adan-Bayewitz (2002). Soil parent mateials and the pottery of Roman Galilee: A comparative study. Geoarcheology, 17(4), 393-415.


The following are a number of articles that clarify (or specify) specific terminology (for rock names and such) needed when dealing with lithics, rock fragments (as temper) or other "rock" dominated materials. For sandstones, see the Pettijohn reference in the Point-Counting section.

Volcanic rocks and fragment terminology

For those of you working in volcanic terranes with pyroclastic debris (tephra) which may temper your ceramics or have volcanic lithic rock fragments - this is the geologic guide for the nomenclature.

R. Schmid (1981) Descriptive nomenclature and classification of pyroclastic deposits and fragments: Recommendations of the IUGS Subcommission on the Systematics for Igneous Rocks. Geology, 9, 41-43.

Igneous Rocks and fragment terminology

These two papers, as well as the most recent edition of the IUGS classification format (le Maitre et al., 2002), give the flavour of the classification scheme for plutonic igneous rocks which may be the source materials for some of your artifacts (metates, points, etc.). If you have extrusive (volcanic) igneous rocks, there are a set of similar nomenclature defined by the same agency.

A.L. Streckeisen (1973) Plutonic rocks: Classification and nomenclature recommended by the IUGS Subcommission on the Systematics of Igneous Rocks. Geotimes, 18 (10), 26-30.

P. C. Lyons (1976) IUGS classification of granitic rocks: A critique. Geology, 4, 425-426.

R. W. Le Maitre et al. (2002) Igneous rocks : a classification and glossary of terms : recommendations of the International Union of Geological Sciences, Subcommission on the Systematics of Igneous Rocks. Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition.

Clay minerals and phyllosilicate minerals terminology

If you are attempting to define the mineralogy of the paste (which is dominated by a group of phyllosilicate minerals called the clay minerals) - you need to use this nomenclature. Yes, it is a bit complicated, but very specific (especially if you are attempting to correlate paste with soil type or environment).

R. T. Martin and others (1991). Report of the Clay Minerals Society Nomenclature Committee: Revised classification of clay minerals. Clays and Clay Minerals, 39 (3), 333-335.

Milan Rieder and others (1998). Nomenclature of the micas. Clays and Clay Minerals, 46 (5), 586-595.

Poorly Consolidated Samples

A nicely written technique paper dealing with handling poorly consolidated materials (i.e., ceramics and such). A useful guide to the technique for those unfamiliar with the methodology. Also a good paper for anyone who will be attempting to microprobe the ceramics for chemical composition data.

Kaylene S. Camuti and Phillip T. Mcguire (1999). Preparation of polished thin sections from poorly consolidated regolith and sediment materials. Sedimentary Geology, 128, 171-178.


Please also see the Velde and Druc (1999) volume in the book section - they have a nice discussion of the this issue.

Harry O. Holstein (1973). Pottery reproduction: A technical study. Pennsylvania Archaeologist, 43(2), 39-50.

An experimental study that is never cited - yet the experimental design and the result have a great deal of relevance (especially with Pre-contact or Archaic ceramics).

E.T. Stepkowska and S. A. Jefferis (1992). Influence of microstructure on firing colour of clays. Applied Clay Science, 6, 319-342.

A bit technical - look at the journal - but great insight into the colour variability and controls via elements or temperature - helps to keep to the Munsell colour classification after you read this one.

F. Negre, A. Barba, J. L. Amoros and A. Escarino (1992). Oxidation of black core during the firing of ceramic ware - 2. Process kinetics. British Ceramic Transactions Journal, 91, 5-11.

A. Barba, F. Negre, M.J. Orts and A. Escarino (1992). Oxidation of black core during the firing of ceramic ware - 3. Influence of the thickness of the piece and the composition of the black core. British Ceramic Transactions Journal, 91, 36-40.

Much more technical (to say the least ) - but about the only detailed attempt to ask what is really happening in the firing process that may result in that characteristic gray (or black) core in an otherwise oxidized sherd fragment.


The following paper by Smith (no relation) is REQUIRED reading if you are dealing with fired ceramics. I just want to know where "Bonfire I" is in the literature - I have searched but to no avail.

A. Livingstone Smith (2001). Bonfire II: The return of pottery firing temperatures. Journal of Archaeological Science, 28, 991-1003.

OK - maybe not the "Bonfire I" paper I was looking for - but DEFINITELY A MUST READ. This is a fine example of experimental set up and follow throught to address an important topic of pottery manufacture. I just would like to know if these are really connected?

The answer to this question has recently been given (February 9, 2004). I received an email form Olivier Gosselain (see next reference) that states

""I've just come across the "Ceramic petrology reference journal articles" page on your web site. I wanted, first, to thank you for mentioning my "Bonfire..." paper, and second, to inform you that this paper is indeed connected to Alexander Livinstone Smith's "Bonfire II". We work together and as his 2001 paper was written a decade later as an answer to the (wrong) suggestions made at the end of my paper, we devised this title as a "bad movie sequel" kind of joke. So, do not search for the "Bonfire I" anymore: you've found it.

Best regards,

Olivier Gosselain ""

Olivier P. Gosselain (1992) Bonfires of the enguiries: Pottery firing temperature in archaeology: What for? Journal of Archaeological Science, 19, 243-259.

And yet another one - conference proceedings paper after Gosselain and before Smith.

Mike S. Tite (1995) Firing temperature determinations - How and Why? In: Anders Lindahl and Ole Stilborg (eds.) The Aim of Laboratory Analyses of Ceramic in Archaeology, KVHAA Konferenser (Stockholm), 34, 37-42.


And, maybe finally, the technical paper to read to understand the experimental results in the above papers. And you would not believe the cross-reference where I found this paper cited.

R. Heimann and U. M. Franklin (1979/1980) Archaeo-thermometry: The assessment of firing temperatures in ancient ceramics. Journal of the International Institute for Conservation, 4(2), 23-45.


O. S. Rye (1976). Keeping your temper under control: Materials and the manufacture of Papuan pottery. Arch. & Phys. Anthrop. in Oceania, 11 (2), 106-137.

Oh, yes. Why do I always find the weird citations. However this is an interesting paper and addresses not only the aplastic and plastic materials that make up this New Guinea pottery - but also the firing relationships based upon fuel, materials, and water content. Read it.

Gordon Bronitsky and Robert Hamer (1986). Experiments in ceramic technology: The effects of various tempering materials on impact and thermal-shock resistance. American Antiquity, 51 (1), 89-101.

A good paper. This is an important question (or at least something that has been bugging me) since many people attribute the introduction of fibre into early pottery for its "thermal shock resistance." Read this one as it may help address some of the temper material you may find in your ceramics.



Soapstone - Steatite

J. Truncer, M.D. Glascock and H. Neff (1998). Steatite source characterization in eastern North America: new results using instrumental neutron activation analysis. Archaeometry, 40(1), 23-44.

Problem with this paper is the lack of comprehensive data - the data sets are given as averages of n analyses. To see the real (complete) data, you need to go to the Missouri Reactor Sharing site maintained by H. Neff. URL is http:// www.missouri.edu/~murrww/archdata.htm. You will also need to check with them about detection limits and error bars (one sigma) for the elements they report. Otherwise, a good reference for a set of soapstone data for comparision.

James Truncer (2004). Steatite vessel age and occurrence in temperate eastern North America. American Antiquity, 69 (3), 487-513.

More on steative vessels (soapstone) and their manufacture. Read this one before the INAA paper.

K. E. Sassaman (2006). Dating and explaining soapstone vessels: A comment on Truncer. American Antiquity, 71 (1), 141-156.

J. Truncer (2006). Taking variation seriously: The case of steatite vessel manufacture. American Antiquity, 71 (1), 157-163.

A comment and reply relating to the J. Truncer (2004) article.

S. Capedri and g. Venturelli (2004). Accessory minerals as tracers in the provenancing of archaeological marbles, used in combination with isotopic and petrographic data. Archaeometry, 46 (4), 517-536.
Leanne M. Mallory-Greenough, Michael P. Gorton, and John D. Greenough (2002). The source of basalt vessels in ancient Egyptian archaeological sites: A mineralogical approach. Canadian Mineralogist, 40, part 2, 1025-1046.

Leanne M. Mallory-Greenough, John D. Greenough and J. Victor Owen (2000). The origin and use of basalt in Old Kingdom funerary temples. Geoarcheology, 15 (4), 315-330.


Daniel G. Gall and Vincas P. Steponaitis (2001). Composition and provenance of greenstone artifacts from Moundville. Southeastern Archaeology, 20(2), 99-117.

Cynthia Whitney, Vincas P. Steponaitis, and John J. W. Rogers (2002). A petrographic study of Moundville palettes. Southeastern Archaeology, 21(2), 227-234.

Unusual use for greenstone


M. A. Rolingson and J. M. Howard (1997). Igneous lithics of central Arkansas: Identification, sources and artifact distribution. Southeastern Archaeology, 16(1), 33-50.

A nice study emphasizing the use of petrographic methods for stone artifacts.

Paul R. Cackler, Michael D. Glascock, Hector Neff, Harry Iceland, K. Anne Pyburn, Dale Hudler, Thomas R. Hester, and Beverly Mitchum Chiarulli (1999). Chipped stone artefacts, source areas, and provenance studies of the Northern Belize chert-bearing zone. Journal of Archaeological Research, 26, 389-397.



J. C. Harrington (1967). The manufacture and use of bricks at the Raleigh Settlement on Roanoke Island. North Carolina Historical Review, 44 (1), 1-17.

Betts, I M.(1991). Thin-Section and Neutron Activation Analysis of Brick and Tile from York and Surrounding Sites.  In A. Middleton and I. Freestone (eds), Recent Developments in Ceramic Petrology, British Museum Occasional Paper 81, 39-55. [Late Medieval European]

B. Bauluz, M. J. Mayayo, A. Yuste, C. Fernandez-Nieto, and J. M. Gonzalez Lopez (2004). TEM study of mineral transformations in fired carbonate clays: Relevance to brick making. Clay Minerals, 39, 333-344.

A textural and mineralogical study of mineral phase transformations in a journal that you usually would not associate with archaeological studies.

Building Stone (mostly conservation issues)

E. M. Winkler and E. J. Wilheim (1970). Salt burst by hydration pressure in architectural stone in urban atmosphere. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 81, 567-572.

Why this one do you ask? Well, when thin-sectioning rock (or building stone) samples, you might find some odd mineralization and ask 'where does that come from?" - here may be a partial answer.

P. Kertesz (1990). Decay and conservation of Hungarian building stones. Environ. Geol. Water Sci., 16 (1), 3-7.

P. B. Attewell and D. Taylor (1990). Time-dependent atmospheric degradation of building stone in a polluting atmosphere. Environ. Geol. Water Sci., 16 (1), 43-55.

F. G. Bell and J. M. Coulthard (1990). Stone preservation with illustrative examples from the United Kingdom. Environ. Geol. Water Sci., 16 (1), 75-81.

Dawn Melbourne (1997). Burial marker conservation - models for the conservation of building stone. Stone World, October, 80-92.


Metals and Smelting

M. S. Tite, I. C. Freestone, N. D. meeks, and P. T. Craddock 91985). The examination of refractory ceramics from metal-production and metalworking sites. The Archaeologist and the Laboratory, Council for British Archaeology Research Report, 58, 50-55.

I. C. Freestone and M. S. Tite (1986). Refractories in the Ancient and Preindustrial World. In W. D. Kingery and Esther Lense (eds.) High-Technology Ceramics: Past, Present, and Future. The Nature of Innovation and Change in Ceramic Technology. The American Ceramic Society, Inc., Westerville, OH. 35-63.

Ian C. Freestone (1989). Refractory materials and their procurement. In A. Hauptmann et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the International Symposium "Old World Archaeometallurgy", Heidleberg, 1987, Selbstverlag des Deutschen Bergbau-Museums, Bochum.155-162.

Crucibles and metallurgy - along with kiln and firing information.

Wrought Iron

W. Rostoker and James Dvorak (1990). Wrought Irons: Distinguishing between processes. Archaeomaterials, 4, 153-166.


Adon A. Gordius and Izumi Shimada (nd). Neutron activation analysis of microgram samples from 363 gold objects from a Sican burial site in Peru. 1-12. [looking for my citation card - I will find it]


A. P. Middleton (1987). Technological investigation of the coatings on some 'haematite-coated' pottery from southern England. Archaeometry, 29 (2), 250-261.

A. P. Middleton (1996). Prehistoric red-finished pottery from Kent. In: Ian Kinnes and Gillian Varndell (eds.) 'Unbaked Urns of Rudely Shape' - Essays on British and Irish Pottery for Ian Longworth, Oxbow Monograph 55, 203-210.

Crushed iron pigment in a clay slip.

Bernard M. Watney (1993). Excavations at the Longton Hall porcelain manufactory. Part III: The porcelain and other ceramic finds. Post-Medieval Archaeology, 27, 57-109.

Why would you want to read this paper. It is because of the "Technical Appendix" by Andrew P. Middletone and Michael R. Cowell (pp. 94-109) that specifically addresses the glazes and cobalt decorations (with major and some trace element data reported in tabular form).

V. Rigby, A. P. Middleton, and I. C. Freestone (1989). The Prunay workshop: technical examination of La Tene bichrome painted pottery from Champagne. World Archaeology, 21 (1), 1-16.

C. P. Stapleton, I. C. Freestone and S. G. E. Bowman (1999). Composition and origin of early Mediaeval opaque red enamel from Britain and Ireland. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 913-921.

The use of lead isotopes can be very useful - the following papers show how it can be done.

Jon. M. Erlandson, J. D. Robertson, and Christope Descantes (1999). Geochemical analysis of eight red ochres from western North America. American Antiquity, 64 (3), 517-526.

Judith A. Habicht-Mauche, Stephen T. Glenn, Homer Milford and A. Russell Flegal (2000). Isotopic tracing of prehistoric Rio Grande glaze-paint production and trade. Journal of Archaeological Science, 27, 709-713.

Judith A. Habicht-Mauche, Stephen T. Glenn, Mike P. Schmidt, Homer Milford and A. Russell Flegal (2002). Stable lead isotope analysis of Rio Grande paints and ores using ICP-MS: A comparison of acid dissolution and laser ablation techniques. Journal of Archaeological Science, 29, 1043-1053.

Tin and lead are also common glaze constituents and can often be used to help define provenance - the following paper is a good example.

Juit Molera, Mario Vendrell-Saz and Josepfina Perez-Arantegui (2001). Chemical and textural characterization of tin glazes in Islamic ceramics from eastern Spain. Journal of Archaeological Science, 28 (3), 331-340.

Ziad al-Saad (2002) Chemical composition and manufacturing technology of a collection of various types of Islamic glazes excavated from Jordan. Journal of Archaeological Science, 29, 803-810.


In the following references, I will attempt to give an annotated overview of some of the common geochemical techniques used in ceramic (and stone) investigation. Some of these are a little more tenuous than others. What this means is that often geochemical data is of several scales of magnitude with respect to abundance. For instance, elemental analyses can be reported as weight percent oxide (wt.% MgO) for the major elements (Si, Al, Fe, Mg, Ca, Na, K, and sometimes Cr and P) while trace elements and rare-earth (REE) elements are reported in ppm (parts per million - 1 gram/10-6 gram of rock/ceramic). Direct comparison between these two radically different (in abundance) element groups often occur when people use (incorrectly) factor comparison techniques (principal component analysis or R- or Q-mode techniques). Weighting factors can be applied, but must have some basis in reality. Furthermore, many mineral species (such as zircon or apatite or feldspar) may act as 'sinks' for certain trace elements - directly affecting the concentration relationships if you forget to factor in this mineralogical effect. Thus, you must look at the mineralogy and determine the active players - just so you can effectively interpret the geochemistry - no matter how fancy the instrumentation. (Sorry - one of my major pet peeves!).

Marino Maggetti (2001). Chemical analyses of ancient ceramics: What for? Chimia, 55, 923-930.

A nice introduction on why there is emphasis on the chemical investigation of ceramics. A good overview.

Electron Microprobe Techniques and Studies

I. C. Freestone (1982). Applications and potential of electron probe in micro-analysis in technological and provenance investigations of ancient ceramics. Archaeometry, 24 (2), 99-116.
Although this paper is a bit dated, it is still a simple yet concise guide to what ceramic petrology with the microprobe is trying to do. Always a good place to start.

Kenneth Pye and David H. Krinsley (1984). Petrographic examination of sedimentary rocks in the SEM using backscattered electron detectors. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, 54 (3), 877-888.

A good paper to start your learning curve when thinking about using the SEM/microprobe to look at ceramic sherds. The techniques discussed here (and constraining observations) hold for our ceramic studies.

J. V. Owen and Denise Hansen (1996). Compositional constraints on the identification of eighteenth-century porcelain sherds from Fort Beausejour, New Brunswick and Grassy Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Historical Archaeology, 30 (4), 88-100.
J. Victor Owen and Robin Barkla (1997). Compositional characteristics of 18th century Derby porcelains: Recipe changes, phase transformations, and melt fertility. Journal of Archaeological Science, 24, 127-140.
L. M. Mallory-Greenough, J. D. Greenough and J. V. Owen (1998). Provenance of temper in a New Kingdom Egyptian pottery sherd: Evidence from the petrology and mineralogy of basalt fragments. Geoarchaeology, 13 (4), 391-410.
Note the techniques in this paper - but note that only ONE sherd was evaluated - what does this imply about applicability of the results.
J. Victor Owen, John O. Wilstead, Rheinallt W. Williams, and Terence E. Day (1998). A tale of two cities: Compositional characteristics of some Nantgarw and Swansea porcelains and their implications for kiln wastage. Journal of Archaeological Sciences, 25, 359-375.
J. Victor Owen (2003). The geochemistry of Worcester porcelain from Dr. Wall to Royal Worchester: 150 years of innovation. Historical Archaeology, 37(4), 84-96.

Acid Dissolution Techniques and Studies

James H. Burton and Arelyn W. Simon (1993). Acid extraction as a simple and inexpensive method for compositional characterization of archaeological ceramics. American Antiquity, 58(1), 45-59. {this paper appears to be rewrite of the paper presented at the Society for American Archaeological meeting in New Orleans in 1991 - 'Determination of intraregional exchange through ionic-extraction analysis of ceramics'.}

This is the paper that started the current flurry of arguments debating the relevance (and applicability of) the technique of weak acid selective dissolution of historic sherds. I have tried this technique and find I am even more worried about it than when I tried to use a prior variant of this technique in 1984-1985 to selectively dissolve apatite crystals from carbonaceous chondritic meteorites. However, you really need to determine on a case-by-case basis whether this technique will be of some use. Please read the additional papers which address the thoughts and concerns of the two groups that fight over this technique.
Hector Neff, Michael D. Glascock, Ronald L. Bishop and M. James Blackman (1996). An assessment of the acid-extraction approach to compositional characterization of archaeological ceramics. American Antiquity, 61(2), 389-404.
James H. Burton and Arelyn W. Simon (1996). A pot is not a rock: A reply to Neff, Glascock, Bishop and Blackman. American Antiquity, 61(2), 405-413.
These are the papers that address the major concerns - and how the two camps are divided. The following is a couple of papers by people who either are in one camp or the other - or who do not really care.
James B. Stoltman, James H. Burton and Jonathan Haas (1992). Chemical and petrographic characterizations of ceramic pastes: Two perspectives on a single data set. In Hector Neff (ed.) Chemical Characterization of Ceramic Pastes in Archaeology, Monographs in World Archaeology No. 7, Prehistory Press, Madison, Wisconsin, 85-92.
James W. Cogswell, Hector Neff and Michael D. Glascock (1998). Analysis of shell-tempered pottery replicates: Implications for provenance studies. American Antiquity, 63(1), 63-72.
James W. Cogswell and Michael J. O'Brien (1998). Analysis of early Mississippian-period pottery from Kersey, Pemiscot County, Missouri. Southeastern Archaeology, 17(1), 39-52.
Andrea J. Carpenter and Gary M. Feinman (1999). The effects of behaviour on ceramic compositions: Implications for the definition of production locations. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 783-796.
Read this one - especially important is their experimental results of the elemental concentration changes with increasing firing temperature - an important (and somewhat scary) factor that may have importance when attempting to correlate the chemistry with the artefact. Imbedded in these results is the question of how to discern the difference (chemically) between two artefacts that have the same fabric and temper composition - but give different chemistries (especially if they were obtained from the same location).

Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis and Studies

Michael D. Glascock (1992). Neutron Activation Analysis. In Hector Neff (ed.) Chemical Characterization of Ceramic Pastes in Archaeology, Monographs in World Archaeology No. 7, Prehistory Press, Madison, Wisconsin, 11-26.

This is a concise look at the chemical data that is determined via NAA methods and the considerations of analytical error and interlaboratory comparison for archaeological ceramics. In addition, Glascock introduces the basic concepts (and mathematics) behind the use of this data in principal component analysis (PCA). A good place to start when addressing the use of real (chemical) data with statistical methods.

Mommsen, H., A. Hein, and E. Hähnel (1997). Classification of medieval ceramics in the Rhineland and neighbouring areas by neutron activation analysis. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 216(2), 247-252. [Late Medieval European]

Mark J. Lynott, Hector Neff, James E. Price, James W. Cogswell and Michael D. Glascock (2000). Inferences about prehistoric ceramics and people in southeast Missouri: Results of ceramic compositonal analysis. American Antiquity, 65 (1), 103-126.

Kevin J. Vaughan and Hector Neff (2000). Moving beyond iconography: Neutron Activiation Analysis of ceramics from Marcaya, Peru , an early Nasca domestic site. Journal of Field Archaeology, 27 (1), 75-90.

Hughes, M. (2000). Neutron Activation Analysis of redware pottery from North-East Essex, including Colchester-type wares. In J. P. Cotter (ed) Post Roman Pottery from Excavations in Colchester, 1971-85, Colchester Archaeological Reports 7, 370-373.

Christophe Descantes, Hector Neff, Michael D. Glascock and William R. Dickinson (2001). Chemical characterization of Micronesian ceamics through instrumental neutron activation analysis: A preliminary study. Journal of Archaeological Science, 28, 1185-1190.

Jacqueline S. Olin, M. James Blackman, Jared E. Mitchem and Gregory A. Waselkov (2002). Compositional analysis of glazed earthenwares from eighteenth-century sites on the northern Gulf Coast. Historical Archaeology, 36(1), 79-96.

Hughes, M. and D. R. M. Gaimster (2002). Neutron Activation Analyses of Majolica by the British Museum. In J. Veeckman (ed) Majolica and Glass from Italy to Antwerp and Beyond, The Transfer of Technology in the 16th and early 17th century.  Stadd Antwerpen, Antwerp, 215-241.

Schwedt, A., H. Mommsen, H. G. Stephan, and D. Gaimster (2003). Neutron Activation Analyses of ‘Falke-Group’ Stoneware. Archaeometry 45(2), 233-250. [Late Medieval European]

R. W. Jamieson and R. G. V. Hancock (2004). Neutron activation analysis of colonial ceramics from southern highland Ecuador. Archaeometry, 46(4), 569-583.

Neff, Hector, Michael D. Glascock, and Timothy K. Perttula (2004). Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis of tejano and Mexican Ceramics from Colonial Sites at Falcon Reservoir, Zapata County, Texas. La Tierra, 31(1), 53-66.


Vaz, J. E., and Cruxent, J. M.(1975). Determination of the provenience of majolica pottery found in the Caribbean area using its gamma-ray induced thermoluminescence, American Antiquity, 40, 71–82. 

M. J. Aitken (1989). Luminescence dating: A guide for non-specialists. Archaeometry, 31 (2), 147-159.

A good place to start with this technique. Straight forward and concise.

James Feathers (1993). Thermoluminescence dating of pottery from southeastern Missouri and the problem of radioactive disequilibrium. Archeomaterials, 7 (1), 3-20.

Necessary reading for the issue of disequilibrium and this dating technique.

James K. Feathers and David Rhode (1998). Luminescence dating of protohistoric pottery from the Great Basin. Geoarchaeology, 13 (3), 287-308.

Kaare L. Rasmussen (2001) FOCUS: Provenance of ceramics revealed by magnetic suspectibility and thermoluminescence. Journal of Archaeological Science, 28, 451-456.

Interesting experimental setup and results.


Pierre Picouet, Marino Maggetti, Denis Piponnier, and Max Schvoerer (1999). Cathodoluminescence spectroscopy of quartz grains as a tool for ceramic provenance. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 943-949.

Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS)

Douglas J. Kennett, Sachiko Sakai, Hector Neff, Richard Gossett and Daniel O. Larson (2002). Compositional characterization of prehistoric ceramics: A new approach. Journal of Archaeological Science, 29, 443-455.

Novel use of microwave digestion.

Gas Chromatography (GC/MS)

M. E. Malainey, R. Przybylski, and B. L. Sherriff (1999). Identifying the former contents of late Precontact Period pottery vessels from western Canada using gas chromatography. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 425-438.

Remanent Magnetic Suspectibility

Yastami Nishida (1995) Assessment of pottery function using remanent magnetic analysis. In: Anders Lindahl and Ole Stilborg (eds.) The Aim of Laboratory Analyses of Ceramic in Archaeology, KVHAA Konferenser (Stockholm), 34, 43-48.

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) Analysis and Studies


X-ray Diffraction (XRD) Analysis and Studies

Steven R. Simms, J. R. Bright and Andrew Ugan (1997). Plain-ware ceramics and residential mobility: A case study from the Great Basin. Journal of Archaeological Science, 24, 779-792.

An interesting paper where paste and temper were separately investigated. Experimental design in this study was good as it reduced the potential for analytical uncertainty.

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) Analysis and Studies

I. C. Freestone and A. P. Middleton (1987). Mineralogical applications of the analytical SEM in archaeology. Mineralogical Magazine, 51, 21-31.

An overview and conceptual paper.

J. V. Owen and T. E. Day (1994). Estimation of the bulk composition of fine-grained media from microchemical and backscatter-image analysis: Application to biscuit wasters from the Bow factory site, London. Archaeometry, 36 (2), 217-226.

P. Acquafredda, T. Anfriani, S. Lorenzoni and E. Zanettin (1999). Chemical characterization of obsidians from different Mediterranean sources by non-destructive SEM-EDS analytical method. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 315-325.

Isotope Techniques (a potpouri of topics)

N. H. Gale ( ). Lead isotope analyses applied to provenance studies - A brief review. 469-502.[sorry - still hunting for my citation card - think I misplaced it on my desk - which is in a state of tectonic overload]

M. J. Baxter (1999). On the multivariate normality of data arising from lead isotope fields. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 117-124.

M. J. Baxter, C. C. Beardah and S. Westwood (2000). Sample size and related issues in the analysis of lead isotope data. Journal of Archaeological Science, 27(10), 973-980. [a bit technical in the evaluation of sample size - primarily an important avenue to address especially if you have statistical interpretation you will make with the data]

Lead isotopic data is a great 'fingerprint' but requires quite a bit of analytical skill. However, it is very useful in tracing alloys and gold and silver artefacts.
Stephen R. Durand, Phillip H. Shelley, Ronald C. Antweiler and Howard E. Taylor (1999). Trees, chemistry and prehistory in the American Southwest. Journal of Archaeological Science, 26, 185-203.
Now you ask, why did I include this paper? For one, it's a good paper on using ICP-MS data to answer an important question of provenance (even if it is for wood for structural timbers). However, the real importance is that they are doing the same thing we are trying to do with ceramics - chemically constrain the location of formation. Note the use of discrimation diagrams (elemental plots) as well as factor analysis methods. Lastly, (from the last paragraph of the Conclusions, p. 201, underline emphasis mine) "Given the right problem and a sufficiently large sample, we feel that it is possible to determine the area(s) of prehistoric timber procurement." A concise summary - and applicable to our investigations.
David A. Hodell, Rhonda L. Quinn, Mark Brenner, and George Kamenov (2004). Spatial variation of strontium isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) in the Maya region: a tool for tracking ancient human migration. Journal of Archaeological Science, 1-17 (my copy has a volume number of 00 - must be a mistake).
Deborah A. Keene (2004). Reevaluating late prehistoric coastal subsidence and settlement strategies: New data from Grove's Creek site, Skidaway Island, Georgia. American Antiquity, 69 (4), 671-688.
Oxygen isotope data on oyster shells as well as botanical data - useful for interpreting some of the stuff (temper or inclusions) found in early pottery in the southeastern United States (as well as elsewhere).


A. Jornet, M. J. Blackman and J. S. Olin (1985). 13th to 18th century ceramics from the Paterna-Manises area (Spain). In W.D. Kingery (ed.) Ancient Technology to Modern Science, Volume I: Ceramics and Civilization, The American Ceramics Society Inc., Columbus, Ohio, 235-266.

Andrew P. Middleton, Michael R. Cowell, and Ernest W. Black (1992). Romano-British relieft-patterned flue tiles: A study of provenace using petrography and neutron activation analysis. Doc. et Trav. IGAL, no. 16, 49-59.

Make sure you request Tables 1 to 4 as they have the NAA data and summaries.

Brian D. Crane, James Blackman, and Pamela B. Vandiver (1995). Continuity, adaptation and resistance: The cultural contexts of the manufacture, distribution anduse of African American pottery in eighteenth-century Charleston, South Carolina. In: Pamela B. Vandiver et al. (eds.) Material Issues in Art and Archaeology IV, MRS Symposium Proceedings, vol. 352, 539-551.

Petrology and xeroradiogaphy.

H. Neff, F. J. Bove, B.L.Lou P. and M.F. Piechowski (1992). Ceramic Raw Materials Survey in Pacific Coastal Guatemala. In Hector Neff (ed.) Chemical Characterization of Ceramic Pastes in Archaeology, Monographs in World Archaeology No. 7, Prehistory Press, Madison, Wisconsin, 59-84.

A nice study combining source material analysis, petrography, XRD and NAA data. I have a bit of a problem with the very busy multiple element comparison diagrams - which are really a bit confusing for the non-geochemist and the dependence on PCA methods to differentiate between the clay (source) regions - I believe it would be easier to use the chemical data and get a more representative idea of the connection between the clays and pots - however, that's just a quibble of mine - otherwise this paper is a nice example of a good approach to addressing the provenance question.


J. Victor Owen and Terence E. Day (1998). Assessing and correcting the effects of the chemical weathering of potsherds: A case study using soft-paste porcelain wasters from the Longton Hall (Staffordshire) factory site. Geoarchaeology, 13 (3), 265-286.

J. V. Owen (1998). On the earliest products (ca. 1751-1752) of the Worcester porcelain manufactory: Evidence from sherds from the Warmstry House site, England. Historical Archaeology, 32 (4), 63-75.

Julio Mercader, Manuel Garcia-Heras and Ignacio Gonzalez-Alvarez (2000). Ceramic tradition in the African forest: Charactersation anlysis of ancient and modern pottery from Ituri, D. R. Congo. Journal of Archaeological Science, 27, 163-182.

J. V. Owen, Brian Adams and Roy Stephenson (2000). Nicolas Crisp's "Porcellien": A petrological comparison of sherds from the Vauxhall (London; ca. 1751-1764) and Indeo Pottery (Bovey Tracey, Devonshire; ca. 1767-1774) Factory sites. Geoarchaeology, 15(1), 43-78.


F. B. Pyatt, G. Gilmore, J. P. Grattan, C. O. Hunt and S. McLaren (2000) An imperial legacy? An exploration of the envrionmental impact of ancient metal mining and smelting in southern Jordan. Journal of Archaeological Science, 27 (9), 771-778.

Mapping of environmental degradation in the ancient world.


Manuel Garcia-Heras (2000) Regional shared style and technology: A mineralogical and compositional study of Celtiberian pottery from Numantia, Spain. Journal of Field Archaeology, 27(4), 437-454.

J. Victor Owen (2001) Provenience of eighteenth-century British porcelain sherds from sites 3B and 4E, Fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia: Constraints from mineralogy, bulk paste, and glaze compositions. Historical Archaeology, 35(2), 108-121.

J. Victor Owen (2001) Geochemical and mineralogical distinctions between Bonnin and Morris (Philadelphia, 1770-1772) porcelain and some contemporary British phosphatic wares. Geoarchaeology, 16(7), 785-802.

Scott C. Phillips and Maury Morgenstein (2002) A Plains ceramic clay source characterization by comparative geochemical and petrographic analyses: Results from the Calhan Paint Mines, Colorado, U.S.A. Geoarchaeology, 17(6), 579-599.

A. Hein, A. Tsolakidou and H. Mommsen (2002) Mycenaen pottery from the Argolid and Achaia - A mineralogical approach where chemistry leaves unanswered questions. [OK - I have misplaced my citation card for this one - pages 177-186, published by University of Oxford - yes, I will find it - sorry]



Pottery Manufacture

Elizabeth C. Weaver (1963/1964) Technological analysis of prehistoric Lower Mississippi ceramic materials: A preliminary report. American Antiquity, 29(1), 49-56.

Jerome Handler (1963) Pottery making in rural Barbados. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 19, 314-334.

An interesting report by Handler who spent a lot of time watching the manufacture of modern Barbadian pottery - useful when looking at potential historic sherds from the Caribbean.


So, where did that clay come from? (common rhetorical question after spending too many hours under the 'scope). Here is an interesting account of the travels of some of those amorphous bits.

Cherokee Clays (an odd North Carolina connection to ceramics)

William L. Anderson (1986) Cherokee Clay, from Duche to Wedgwood: The Journal of Thomas Griffiths, 1767-1768. The North Carolina Historical Review, LXIII(4), October, 477-510.

W. R. H. Ramsay, G. R. Hill, and E. G. Ramsay (2004). Re-creation of the 1744 Heylyn and Frye ceramic patent wares using Cherokee clay: Implications for raw materials, kiln conditions, and the earliest English porcelain productions. Geoarchaeology, 19 (7), 635-655.


R. E. Highes, T.E. Berres, D. M. Moore, and K. B. Farnsworth (1998). Revision of Hopewellian trading patterns in midwestern North America based upon mineralogical sourcing. Geoarchaeology, 13 (7), 709-729.

Another good example of a mineralogical provenace study for Hopewell-style platform pipes - shows methodology and approaches for this type of study.

Miriam T. Stark and James M. Heidke (1998). Ceramic manufacture, productive specialization, and the early Classic Period in Arizona's Tonto Basin. Journal of Anthropological Research, 54, 497-517.

Rebecca Saunders and James B. Stoltman (1999). A multidimensional consideration of complicated stamped pottery production in southern Louisiana. Southeastern Archaeology, 18 (1), 1-23.

Ian Freestone (1999). The mineralogy and chemistry of early British porcelain. Mineralogy Society (British) Bulletin, July, 3-7.

A short overview of the types and styles of early British pottery.

Fibre-tempered Wares

More fibre temper stuff (been working on Stallings pottery - so have a lot of background references)

J. B. Griffin (1943). An analysis and interpretation of the ceramic remains from two sites near Beaufort, South Carolina. Smithsonian Institution Anthropological Papers No. 22, 133, 155-168.

W. T. Penfound and F. G. Deiler (1947). On the ecology of Spanish Moss. Ecology, 28 (4), 455-458.

R. E. Garth (1964). The ecology of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides): Its growth and distribution. Ecology, 45 (3), 470-481.

Ripley P. Bullen and H. Bruce Greene (1972). Stratigraphic tests at Stalling's Island, Georgia. Florida Anthropologist, 23 (1), 8-28.

Discussion of pottery typology and lithic materials.

Ripley P. Bullen and James B. Stoltman (eds.; 1972). Fiber-tempered pottery in southeastern United States and Northern Columiba: It's origins, context, and significance. Florida Anthropologist, 25(2), part 2. (Florida Anthropological Society Publications Number 6). Includes the following articles and materials.

James B. Stoltman. Preface, i.

G. Reichel-Dolmatoff. The cultural context of early fiber-tempered pottery in northern Columbia. 1-8.

Ripley P. Bullen. The Orange Period of peninsular Florida. 9-33.

John W. Griffin. Fiber-tempered pottery in the Tennessee Valley. 34-36.

James B. Stoltman. The Late Archaic in the Savannah River Region. 37-62.

References cited. 63-72.

Kenneth c. Reid (1984). Fire and Ice: New evidence for the production and preservation of Late Archaic fiber-tempered pottery in the middle-latitude lowlands. American Antiquity, 49 (1), 55-76.

James M. Skibo, Michael B. Schiffer, and Kenneth C. Reid (1989). Organic-tempered pottery: An experimental study. American Antiquity, 54 (1), 122-146.

K. E. Sassaman (1998). Distribution, timing, and technology of early pottery in the southeastern United States. Revista de Arquelogia Americana, 14, 101-133.

This is an early portion of Ken Sassaman's work on southeastern United States pottery that is now published in book form (Early Pottery in the Southeast - see reference in book section).


Sponge Spicules (another component that shows up in the paste is sponge spicules)

Vicki L. Rolland and Paulette Bond (2003). The search for spiculate clays near aboriginal sites in the lower St. Johns River region, Florida. Florida Anthropologist, 56(2), 91-111.

Ann S. Cordell and Steven H. Koski (2003). Analysis of a spiculate clay from Lake Monroe, Volusia County, Florida. Florida Anthropologist, 56(2), 113-124.

more to come

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Last revised 29 August 2007