Improving pXRF Estimates of Elemental Composition for Lead-Glazed Earthenware

Author(s): Lindsay Bloch; Erik Bolling

Year: 2016


Lead glazing was a significant technological innovation to pottery production, increasing the strength and imperviousness of earthenwares. These ceramics are common components of archaeological assemblages in many parts of the world. They are known to have traveled long distances, thus determining their provenience has great interpretive potential. While studies analyzing archaeological ceramics with non-destructive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) have multiplied rapidly in recent years, lead-glazed ceramics have posed a particular challenge, as lead acts a shield for X-rays. This paper reports on the pXRF analysis of over 400 lead-glazed earthenware sherds recovered from historic earthenware production sites across the mid-Atlantic US and in Great Britain. In particular, we investigated whether pXRF results could independently reproduce compositional groups determined using analytical methods less sensitive to lead concentration, such as laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS). XRF data were calibrated to produce quantitative results that made a variety of data analyses possible, and further facilitated the development of a correction function for lead. We demonstrate the potential of this method for compositional studies of lead-glazed wares, while offering best practices for sample selection and preparation to minimize lead contamination.

Cite this Record

Improving pXRF Estimates of Elemental Composition for Lead-Glazed Earthenware. Lindsay Bloch, Erik Bolling. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405056)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -84.067; min lat: 36.031 ; max long: -72.026; max lat: 43.325 ;