Study of ancient glazed pottery from Azerbaijan confirms the need for a multi-technique approach in cultural heritage research


The combination of several techniques is fundamental to analysing different aspects of archaeological findings. An interesting example showing the importance of applying a multi-technique approach in this field is that of the latest research conducted by the research group to which the CERIC user Valentina Venuti belongs, which focused on eight archaeological pottery fragments from the medieval ruins of the Agsu archaeological site in Azerbaijan.

The group applied a combination of complementary techniques: optical microscopy (OM), scanning electron microscopy – energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) and prompt gamma activation analysis (PGAA at the Hungarian CERIC partner facility – Budapest Neutron Centre) to define the raw materials and pigments used for the production and decoration of the samples, and X-ray diffraction (XRD) to assess their firing temperature.

SEM micromorphological details of glaze and ceramic body

The data obtained suggest the presence of different production technologies and raw materials (quartz, plagioclase, feldspar and hematite in one group of samples, quartz and plagioclase in the second one), probably due to the site position at the crossroad of commercial routes. Moreover, XRD analysis suggested that the original calcareous clay of both groups of samples was fired at temperatures higher than 850°C. Only for one group of samples was it possible to hypothesize Chinese production and provenance. However, more samples (both pottery fragments and local clays) need to be studied in order to confirm this hypothesis.

The work, which can overall be considered a milestone for future archaeometric studies in this area, is a first step towards further sampling campaigns about both archaeological and geological specimens needed for reconstructing the provenance of artefacts.

Original article

V. Crupi, Z. Kasztovszky, F. Khalillil, M. F. La Russa, A. Macchia, D. Majolino, B. Rossi, N. Rovella, S. A. Ruffolo and V. Venuti, Evaluation of complementary methodologies applied to a preliminary archaeometric study of glazed pottery from Agsu (Azerbaijan), International Journal of Conservation Science, Vol. 7, Special issue 2, 2016:901-912