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Integrated investigations for the characterisation of Roman lead-glazed pottery from Pompeii and Herculaneum (Italy)

Lorena Carla Giannossa, Daniela Fico, Antonio Pennetta, Annarosa Mangone, Rocco Laviano, and Giuseppe Egidio De Benedetto

Department of Chemistry, University of Bari Aldo Moro, via Orabona 4, 70126 Bari, Italy



Abstract: A multi-analytical approach was used to investigate Roman lead-glazed ceramic artefacts from archaeological excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum (Italy) aiming at defining the production technology of both glaze and ceramic body, by way of integrated investigations. The chemical, structural, and micro-morphological characterisations were performed using a combination of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), optical microscopy (OM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and micro-Raman spectroscopy. Fragments of artefacts (skyphoi, oil lamps, bowls, askoi, amphorae, krateres) of great historical and archaeological interest were sampled. LA-ICP-MS was used to determine the elemental composition by virtue of its effective lateral resolution, its ability to detect most elements and also to analyse comparably small samples. All the archaeological objects were coated with a lead-based glaze produced using a lead oxide-plus-quartz mixture, with sodium/potassium feldspars added as a flux and two different metals used: copper and iron. Two types of ceramic pastes have been identified, but chemometric techniques support the hypothesis of a Campanian provenance for the raw materials. Degradation phenomena such as the partial devitrification of the glaze, i.e. the slow structural reorganisation towards stable crystalline phases, and the leaching by mineral dissolution in the soil, were determined.

Keywords: laser ablation – pottery – principal component analysis – production technology – multianalytical approach

Full paper is available at

DOI: 10.1515/chempap-2015-0110


Chemical Papers 69 (8) 1033–1043 (2015)

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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