Scientific preparations of archaeological ceramics status, value and long term future

Publication date: March 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 91
Author(s): Patrick Sean Quinn
Thin sections, resin blocks, pressed pellets, fused beads, milled powders, solutions and digested residues are several key sample formats used in the invasive scientific analysis of ancient ceramics. They are crucial tools that enable researchers to characterise the mineralogical, geochemical, molecular and microstructural composition of pottery and other ceramic artefacts, in order to interpret their raw materials, manufacturing technology, production locations and functions. Despite the importance of such preparations, key issues about their status, such as whether they are still artefacts or not, who owns them and where they should reside after analysis, are rarely addressed in the archaeological or archaeometric literature. These questions have implications for the long-term future of thin sections, resin blocks and other sample formats, as well as their accessibility for future research. The present paper highlights the above problem and assess the roles, perspectives and needs of ceramic analysts, field archaeologists, commercial units, curators, policy makers, professional bodies, special interest groups and funding agencies. Finally, guidelines are put forward that can be taken into account when deciding on the value and research potential of scientific specimens of archaeological ceramics, as well as strategies for their curation.