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Sr-Nd isotopic fingerprint as a tool for ceramic provenance: its application on raw materials, ceramic replicas and ancient pottery


Alberto De Bonis a, Ilenia Arienzo b, Massimo D’Antonio b,c, Luigi Franciosi c, Chiara Germinario d, Celestino Grifa d, Vincenza Guarino c, Alessio Langella d, Vincenzo Morra c,*


aInstitut für Klassische Archäologie, Universität Wien, Franz-Klein-Gasse 1, 1190, Vienna, Austria
bIstituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione di Napoli Osservatorio Vesuviano, Via Diocleziano 328, 80124 Napoli
cDipartimento di Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e delle Risorse (DiSTAR), Università degli Studi di Napoli
Federico II, Complesso Universitario di Monte Sant’Angelo, Via Cinthia 26, 80126 Napoli
dDipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie, Università degli Studi del Sannio, Via De Sanctis, 82100 Benevento
Journal of Archaeological Science
Volume 94, June 2018, Pages 51-59
The potentiality of isotope analysis has largely been explored in archaeological sciences to date objects, attribute their provenance and depict ancient human dietary habits. However, the potential of this technique for provenance studies of ancient ceramics has barely been explored, due to the fact that the ceramic process often involves the selection of different raw materials and, consequently, different sources of radiogenic isotopes.
In this paper, 87Sr/86Sr and 143Nd/144Nd isotope ratios were measured on raw materials (clays and volcanic temper) that were exploited in antiquity for producing pottery in the Campania region of Italy and, for the first time, on experimental ceramic materials that replicate archaeological pottery. To validate the method, Sr and Nd isotope ratios were also measured on selected archaeological pottery from Cuma.
The results of this pioneering approach clearly show that the synthetic mixtures used for the ceramic replicas plot exactly on the theoretical mixing curve between the clay and volcanic temper end-members. On the other hand, technological processes employed during pottery manufacturing such as firing and levigation induce no significant variations in Sr and Nd isotope ratios.
Isotope characterisation represents an effective fingerprint of pottery that strictly depends on the geochemical affinity of the raw materials, thus providing a better discrimination among different ceramic productions.
Keywords: Sr and Nd isotopes; Archaeological pottery; Raw materials; Ceramic replicas; Campania region.