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Etruscan-Padan Pottery Archaeometric Study by Maritan Essay

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Updated: Jul 24th, 2020


Lara Maritan (2004) conducted an archaeometric study to discuss one particular type of pottery and its characteristics. She based her work on the sale of Etruscan-Padan pottery and used various approaches and methods to identify the way the sample was made. The author also paid enormous attention to the components of the ceramics and technological features. She used eight samples in total and discussed each of them in connection to 29 variables that are seen as chemical elements found in the composition of the pottery.

Classification and Characterisation of Ceramics

Before analyzing ceramics in detail, it is critical to classify it. Maritan (2004) examined several samples and compared them to find out if they can be grouped. In this way, it can be claimed that the author used a quantitative approach in her analysis. In order to make the work structured and receive an opportunity to compare different objects, Maritan used various types of analysis. The scientist based her work on sampling, which allowed her to consider specific characteristics of different objects belonging to the ceramic class. Maritan was well aware of the complex structure of the materials and discussed mineralogical, petrographic, and geochemical compositions.

Textural features of the samples are discussed with the help of the description that focuses on inclusions and voids. Thin sections are characterized with the assistance of text, and visual elements are mainly omitted. In this way, the author makes the work look more authoritative, as personal evaluation and biased interpretations are minimalized. Of course, they are used to describe such things as the form of the objects and their color, but all details about the components of ceramics are considered after analysis maintained with the help of additional equipment such as microscope and x-ray.

Like many other scientists who refer to the quantitative approach to characterization and focus on description instead of grouping, Maritan utilized a descriptive scheme designed by Ian Whitbread (1986). This work was published in 2004, which explains why new modified Quinn’s system was not used (Quinn 2013). Still, Whitbread’s system can be even considered as more trustworthy because it was successfully used for a long period and proved its credibility.

Just as required by a quantitative approach of analysis, the author examines each fabric separately, which provides an opportunity to compare the samples and group them with the help of discriminant analysis (Santacreu 2014). Maritan actively uses numbers and letter codes in her work (for example, sample E20), which makes the article more structured but required much attention and concentration from the reader. The paper is full of charts also. Their utilization streamlines the understanding of the findings and allows the public to check the author’s conclusions. In this way, the composition of clay materials, canonic functions, P-values, etc. are presented in this way and described. Chemical quantitative analysis and its findings are in the focus of the author’s attention

A petrographic analysis starts with the assessment of inclusions that are proved to be heterogeneous. All required general characteristics are mentioned. It is also stated that small inclusions are angular so that roundness is particular for the while large ones. The nature of described inclusions allows stating that they are mainly mineral and rock fragments. Unfortunately, Maritan does not define spacing, which shows that the work lacks some important information. Except for that, the work does not include any images except for the ones that show the forms of the sample, which makes the readers refer only to the words of the author. The paper contains some lengthy descriptions because different materials are discussed separately but mainly the author refers to ceramic sherds.

Maritan also assesses elongated voids, still, the information about them is rather limited while the whole work is focused on various inclusions and characteristics of sample fragments, including thermal range, etc. Maximum sizes were identified.

The paper ends with a summary of interpretations that provide an opportunity to get to know the most important information about the samples in the view of the author.

Ceramic Provenance

Petrographic data is gained and interpreted with the help of petrographic analysis (Quinn 2013). The samples were considered regarding their inclusions. The scientist described the groundmass of the samples and porosity.

With the help of microscopic analysis of inclusions, Maritan received an opportunity to correlate sherds with the places they were found. As a result, if some professional would like to continue this work, one can easily link particular ceramics to the past cultures that existed on the discussed territory many years ago during the late Cretaceous-Eocene age. In this article, the author was more focused on the components of clay materials and omitted such information. Still, it cannot be denied that Maritan successfully coped with the main task and defined the way a sample’s composition is connected with the geological environment.

For example, the author states that the sherds from Adria are full of garnet while the sample from Este contains isolated plagioclase (Maritan 2004). This part of the paper is relatively small, and it does not include a lot of detailed descriptions. It is more like a general overview of the situation with several examples. The description of the study area is made only on the evaluation of the inclusions while it might be more advantageous also to compare this data with the information gained from other sources that discussed the geology of the area. In this way, the conclusions will be more authoritative.

Except for that, the author provides only the elements of shape as supporting information in this part of the paper that can influence the accuracy. Moreover, it would be advantageous to refer to the color of the objects that are discussed in the other section with no reference to the location. However, the paper includes main diffusion directions that allow the reader to imagine territory and see from where the samples were taken. If some reports were also used, the information about geology would be more detailed. The amount of fieldwork is also not clear. However, the article is full of quantitative data that makes the author’s conclusions more accurate. Even though microfossils are difficult to identify in this part of work, Maritan defines the fossil association and connects it to a particular era and location.

Both optical and electron microscopy was used by the researcher because in this way the opportunity to evaluate mineralogical and structural features of the pottery pieces was enhanced.

Ceramic Technology

Of course, Maritan’s work is focused not only on the determination of the provenance of the sample. The scientist pays attention to the technological conditions of ceramic production. This information is not only included in a separate section, which proves that it interested the author a lot but can be also found with other data.

Maritan claims that the technology utilized by the people who worked with ceramics depended greatly on the presence and absence of specific minerals in the raw materials. She focuses on preparation and firing, and with the help of clay pellets presence identifies the absence of seasoning. The scientist provides the diagrams that show the results of various firing experiments. They allowed Maritan to define maximum firing temperatures of the sherds that have similar chemical composition. Except for that, such experiments allowed us to add information about different distributions. The author concluded that various pyrotechnological features can be connected with them.

Moreover, Maritan evaluated the potsherd color. In this way, she gained the information about redox conditions during firing. The color of ceramics and the type of firing were investigated so that the way the sample was produced became clearer. Firing atmosphere conditions, as well as oxidizing and reducing ones, are discussed by the author in the framework of the additional parameter. The data is presented in figures that provide an opportunity to see how the reduction index distribution alters in relation to color and function of firing temperatures. Types of firing are discussed about the organic matter. The author also identifies the color of the pottery here.

It is also beneficial that the author managed to use the features of different mineralogical assemblages to identify the firing temperature of the sherds. Except for that, all this information is tightly connected to the elemental compositions of clay materials, which proves that the article can be used not only to discuss the sample indicated by Maritan (Jones 2004). The researchers who are willing to focus on ceramic technology can separate only the elements that are appropriate for their work and use the data obtained by Maritan. This fact makes the article useful, as generalization makes it more important.

Instrumental Geochemical Analysis

Ceramics can be analyzed in different ways, but the author mainly utilized the compositional analysis. Petrographic, mineralogical and geochemical analyses allowed the author to define the components of the sample and their relative abundance.

This quantitative chemical analysis allowed us to identify numerous elements that could be found in eight samples. Maritan referred to X-ray fluorescence (XRF) with the help of Philips PW2400 spectrometer and analyzed the parts of the ceramics she had by Mössbauer spectroscopy. In this way, the author simplified the process of sample preparation. All in all, 29 chemical elements were analyzed and discussed in the paper about different features the sample obtains. Structural features of the samples gained after the research was used by Maritan to discuss inclusions and the nature of the paste.

X-ray diffraction allowed to examine ceramics and define what elements it consists of. This method also provided an opportunity to define the concentration of each of them. The author referred to powder x-ray diffraction, which provided one with the opportunity to save more time and effort for the evaluation. This is the most widely used method of analysis that is discussed by numerous professionals, which gives an opportunity not to waste much time searching for the most appropriate method. It is the simplest method that is good for working with a small sample, which provided Maritan with a chance to save the objects.

Unfortunately, this X-ray diffraction required substantial preparation that is complicated and time-consuming, which is its main disadvantage. However, the research is based on only eight pottery parts the author wanted to assess. Taking into consideration the fact that the sample is small, it seems to be logical to use such a method of analysis.

Finally, it should be stated that both types of instrumental geochemical analyses were used with the attempt to determine production technology and find out the place of origin of the samples. The author utilized them successfully and reached her goals (Shugar & Mass 2012).


The article prepared by Lara Maritan focuses on the Etruscan-Padan type of pottery and investigates it in detail. The author used different methods of analysis to find out what are the components of the sample and how it was produced and where. Scientific techniques used by Maritan allowed her to receive all this data and assess it to make decent conclusions. However, the author could have used more additional information to make the work better in the framework of authoritativeness and accuracy. It would be advantageous if the Maritan utilized more geological literature to describe the area from where the samples were taken.

In this way, the information she provides would be not only received from the personal analysis but also supported by the external materials. The author could have also described the way technology is connected to the tradition, beliefs or identity of the potter, as this perspective was omitted. Still, Maritan narrowed the topic so that she received an opportunity to discuss inclusions and production technology in detail. The rest of the information can be gained when similar research will be conducted with other focuses.

Reference List

Jones, A 2004, ‘Archaeometry and materiality: materials-based analysis in theory and practice’, Archaeometry, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 327–338.

Maritan, L 2004, ‘Archaeometric study of Etruscan-Padan type pottery from the Veneto region: petrographic, mineralogical and geochemical-physical characterisation’, European Journal of Mineralogy, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 297-307.

Quinn, P 2013, . Web.

Santacreu, D 2014, Materiality, Techniques and Society in Pottery Production, De Gruyter Open LTD, Warsaw.

Shugar, A & Mass, O 2012, Handheld XRF for art and archaeology, Leuven University Press, Leuven.

Whitebread, I 1986, ‘The characterisation of argillaceous inclusions in ceramic thin sections’, Archaeometry, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 79-88.

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