Using Synchrotron Radiation Based Techniques for the Detailed Chemical-Geometric Characterization of Archeological Pottery and Ceramics

2017 PTT Grant, Louisiana State University and A&M College,  $39,993 


In this project two synchrotron radiation based techniques will be applied to the detailed characterization of archaeological samples: X-ray fluorescence (SR-XRF) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) specifically X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy. Both techniques are non-destructive and thus suitable also for the investigation of valuable artifacts. SR-XRF provides (semi-quantitative) information about the elemental composition of a sample down to the ppb – level. XANES allows the detailed chemical/ geometric characterization of chosen elements from the sample on an atomic level. The combined results from both techniques not only provide information about the elemental composition but also detailed information about the speciation of elements of interest. This information will be helpful for determining the origin of the material used for fabricating the samples, the techniques used for the fabrication process and also for determining the best techniques for preservation and conservation of samples. As typical archaeological samples with a partly non-crystalline structure, pottery and ceramic samples have been chosen for this project. Poverty Point Objects (PPOs) known also as Baked-Clay Objects (BCOs) from the Poverty Point World Heritage Site will be at the core of the investigation but suitable ceramic and pottery samples from other sites will also be included. Experiments will be carried out at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Center for Advanced Microstructure and Devices (CAMD) 1.5 GeV electron storage ring where beamlines for the planned experiments exist. As part of the dissemination process a hands-on workshop is planned for a small group of interested archaeologists.

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On March 30, 2018, Louisiana Public Broadcasting produced a show about the analysis of Poverty Point objects based on this grant.

National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
645 University Parkway
Natchitoches, LA 71457

Email: ncptt[at]
Phone: (318) 356-7444
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