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Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Pottery, Ancient, Art-Provenance, Ceramography, X-ray spectroscopy, Scanning electron microscopes., Vases, Corinthian., Archaeological chemistry., Ceramics, Ancient pottery, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, XRF, Scanning electron microscopy, SEM-EDS, Corinthian pottery, Composition


The location of manufacture, or provenance, of ancient artifacts reveals much about their cultural and historical significance. Existing records suggest that an ancient Corinthian-style ceramic jug (repository number 25.55) from the Department of Classics' Van Buren Antiquities Collection may be an imitation by the Etruscans of northern Italy, but more information is needed to confirm its provenance, and there is little known about the provenances of the other nine ancient Corinthian-style vases in the Van Buren Collection. The provenance of a ceramic can be established by comparing the abundances of key elements such as Ca, Fe, Ti, and Cr in the ceramic to the composition of ceramics of the same style whose provenances are established, but the inherent historical and cultural value of ancient ceramics discourages the use of destructive methods for determining composition. Handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (HHXRF) has shown promise for art objects as a non-destructive spectrometric technique, while energy-dispersive X-ray emission spectrometry coupled to a scanning electron microscope (SEM-EDS) can be used on very small samples of art objects. HHXRF analysis of jug 25.55 provides support for the hypothesis that it is not of Corinthian provenance, but sampling bias and surface contamination prevented the determination of the provenance of the Corinthian-style aryballos 25.30 by XRF. SEM-EDS analysis of the ten Corinthian-style vases revealed significant sampling biases that prevented the determination of the provenance of any of the vases by SEM-EDS. The minimally-invasive instrumental techniques and sampling procedures highlighted the challenges of chemical analysis of archaeological materials while still providing insight into the provenance of some of the objects in the Van Buren Antiquities Collection.




104 pages : illustrations (some color). Honors projects-Smith College, 2015. Includes bibliographical references (pages 93-95)