Institute of Prehistory, Early History and Medieval Archaeology


11.11.2020 - Ada Dinckal

Title: Take it with a grain of salt; Micromorphology and Diagenesis at the site of Diepkloof Rock Shelter, South Africa

Abstract: Two conflicting Luminesce chronologies have been developed for the Howieson’s Poort bearing Middle Stone Age sequence at Diepkloof. This has led to considerable controversy within the understanding of the HPs place within the MSA chronological. One hypothesis for this difference argues that estimates of Potassium at DRS are resulting in the conflicting dates. This thesis provides the first extensive look at the diagenetic and micromorphology variations occurring across large lateral extents of the DRS archaeological sequence. A primary aim of this thesis is to develop an understanding as to what is happening with Potassium bearing minerals at DRS and how this may change over large lateral sequences. A secondary aim of this thesis is to provide a contextual framework for the diagenetic and micromorphological analysis occurring at the site by using Photogrammetric models. Along with the first detailed photogrammetric sequence of the DRS Long Trench profile, this study also provides the first known use of photogrammetry to georectify large scale loose sample collection used in this analysis. 
25.11.2020 - Eirini Koutouvaki

Title: Clayey sediments and pottery fabrics in the wider Ierapetra area (Crete)


Ierapetra and its wider region has caught the attention of Minoan archaeology much less than other areas on Crete, due to the sparsity of finds and the lack of impressive Minoan. It was only in the last decade that a series of new excavation projects started to shed light on the Bronze Age history of the area. There are, however, many gaps in our knowledge, particularly concerning the raw materials and the production of the pottery found in the new sites excavated so far in the area. 

This project contributes to this problem by exploring the two most frequently attested Minoan pottery fabrics in the southern part of the isthmus of Ierapetra, namely the granodiorite and the ophiolitic. The provenance of these fabrics had been taken for granted in Minoan literature: the Mirabello fabric is connected to the granodioritic outcrops at Gournia-Kalo Chorio area and the South Coast fabric is connected mostly to the ophiolitic series/flysch mélange between Myrtos and the Asterousia-Messara area. However, most recent studies1 have cast doubts to these ideas and show that, taking into account the repetitive geological structure of the island, this provenance is not a solid fact, particularly because ophiolitic lithologies and granodiorite outcrops have been attested in the southern part of Ierapetra isthmus as well, on the plain and the surrounding hills of the Ierapetra plain. 

In order to clarify this issue, clay prospection was carried out in the wider Ierapetra area. The samples were studied through petrographic analysis, and the purpose was to define a) the mineralogical composition of the clayey sediments and the role of the rock suite for their formation and composition, and b) the tempering material available in the plain. Furthermore, the results of this study are compared to Minoan pottery from sites in the area, as well as to modern pottery, locally manufactured by the traditional potters of Kentri, which was one of the most important pottery centers in the 20th century on the island. 

Despite the fact that archaeological work in the area is in a preliminary stage, the results of this study provide new evidence and allow us to reconsider well established and widely accepted ideas concerning the production and distribution of Minoan pottery is this area, and consequently to infer on exchange networks and the socio-cultural relationships.



1: Liard, F., 2018a. Production and trade of pottery in the so-called “South Coast” fabric in Bronze Age Crete. Current interpretations and recent findings at Malia, northern Lassithi, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 21, 973–982; Liard, F., Pomonis, P., Koutsovitis, P., Gait, J., Stamatakis, M., 2018. Ophiolites associated with pottery production in Bronze Age Crete, Archaeometry, 60(4), 731-749.
09.12.2020 - Enrique Fernández-Palacios

Title: Approaching formation processes at the aboriginal site of Belmaco Cave (La Palma, Canary Islands) through the combined use of soil micromorphology and lipid biomarker analysis



Belmaco Cave (Villa de Mazo, La Palma, Canary Islands), is an aboriginal rock-shelter site located at mid-slope in the south-eastern part of the island of La Palma. The site, which dates from the end of the 9th century to the 14th century AD, has been investigated since the mid 20th century and is a key reference locality on the island. Macroscopically, the stratigraphy exhibits alternating thin layers of ashy and charcoal-rich sediment, suggestive of a fumier-type deposit. These fumiers, documented during the early prehistory of the Mediterranean region, tend to be located in caves, which were used by shepherds as shelter for the livestock and underwent periodic burning events. However, this kind of deposit has usually been dated earlier than the Iron Age period on the continent. Here we present the first high-resolution geoarchaeological study combining soil micromorphology and lipid biomarker analysis to demonstrate the existence of a fumier at Belmaco Cave and characterize its formation processes. Our results show that a repetitive sequence of events took place at the cave. This sequence is based on the upward recurrent appearance of unburned dung layers, carbonized black layers, and dung ash layers, defining a series of approximately 10 stabling episodes across a period of 200 to 400 years, in which the burning of residues occurred sporadically. Furthermore, these burning practices, characteristic of fumier deposits, seem to have been introduced, or at least intensified, by the time of a new colonization wave in La Palma around the 11th century. Finally, lipid biomarker data has shown that goat/sheep diet at Belmaco was mainly composed of herbaceous plants.

16.12.2020 - Sinem Hacıosmanoglu


Title: Provenance Analysis and Production Technology of Late Bronze and Iron Age Plain Ware from Sirkeli Höyük in the Ceyhan Plain, Cilicia, South Anatolia (Turkey)

Abstract: Sirkeli Höyük is one of the largest settlements in Cilician Plain (modern Ceyhan Plain) located in South Anatolia. The site was inhabited from Chalcolithic (ca. 5000 BC) to the Hellenistic period (300 – 100 BC). Bronze and Iron Age layers are the most substantial occupations of the settlement. In the region, the materials play a key role in not only in chronological and historical investigations but also in understanding the cultural relations of Cilicia with Central Anatolia and the neighboring regions including Cyprus. Among various wares, Plain ware is chosen for this study as it is the most common and characteristic ware of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages. Here we present results of archaeometric analysis carried out on the LBA Plain Ware (n=40) and IA Plain Ware (n=20) from Sirkeli Höyük as well as local clay samples (n= 60) collected from the Ceyhan Plain. The aim is to identify the possible clay sources of the ware and to explore its production technologies throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages to examine continuations and/ or discontinuations in these aspects. To this end, we used LA-ICP-MS (Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectroscopy) for elemental analysis, Petrography, XRD (X-ray diffraction), and (SEM) Scanning Electron Microscope techniques for identification of mineralogical composition and textural analysis of the samples. As a result, this presentation will summarise the identified possible clay sources and production technologies of Plain Ware together with the variations occurring due to chronological, geographical, and geological factors.
13.01.2021 - Beatrice Boese



Title: A window into the past. Mortars of the so-called Ginnasio (Solunto, Sicily) as a key-element for a better understanding of ancient building techniques and the chronological development of a Hellenistic-Roman city






This contribution focuses on ancient building materials, particularly mortars, plasters and related materials. These are part of the Tuebingen Mortar Project, which aims to clarify the provenance of raw material and dating as well as the development of building techniques. It is based on a case study of plaster samples taken from the so-called Ginnasio in the Hellenistic-Roman city of Solunto (Sicily), which was dated to the mid-3rd or late 2nd century BCE. 

According to literary sources Solunto was founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BCE, destroyed in the early 4th and rebuilt in the late 4th century BCE by Carthaginian mercenaries on the top of Monte Catalfano. From an archaeological point of view this literary tradition was accepted over a long period, even though there is no stratigraphic data for such an early dating. More recently, the city has been dated to the late 2nd century BCE because the evidence of any Carthaginian remains whatsoever was questioned, which means that the city was rebuilt by the Romans after the so-called romanisation of Sicily. But here again, stratigraphic data are missing. 

To get a better understanding of both the building technique and chronology of the so-called Ginnasio an integrated archaeometric approach including petrography, X-ray micro-diffraction (μ-XRD2), but also radiocarbon dating has been applied to the plaster of this building. Using this combined approach, different building techniques can be identified and linked to various functions and chronological phases. The mineralogical investigation also sheds light on the use of raw materials, which shows the different and interconnected strategies of selecting and processing of local resources, as well as the use of recycled pottery and mortars for pavements. Overall this work makes a significant contribution to the understanding of ancient architecture with the use of archaeometric techniques.

27.01.2021 - Dr. Tillmann Viefhaus

Title: Raman spectroscopy – A non-invasive analytic method in archeology/archaeometry  


Raman spectroscopy is a powerful analytical technique applied to the analysis of various archaeological materials. In this lecture, the basic concepts of the method, its potential, and limitations will be presented with the aid of some examples from archaeological science. In addition, some important parameters for the instrumental set-up will be discussed briefly. The use and possibilities of data evaluation software will also be shown followed by some typical and prominent examples of archeological samples including paintings and metal corrosion.


03.02.2021 - Dobereiner Chala

Title: Investigating Mobility and Social Interaction along Southern Iberia during the Bronze Age through Isotopic and GIS Analyses


Most cartographical representations of the Bronze Age in southern Iberia rely on territorial models, with borders separating traditionally studied Culture Areas. Some regions such as the Middle and Low Guadalquivir Valley remained understudied, giving the impression of being unoccupied or being a low ranked region for settling. This presentation shows the results of the combination of GIS analyses and isotopic analyses of Sr and O in human remains from the necropolis of Cobre las Cruces (Seville, Spain). The methodology here presented shows evidence of occupation of the Middle and Low Guadalquivir Valley during the Full Bronze Age (2200-1550 BC) and the relevant role played by landscape in the interactions identified alongsouthern Iberia. Archaeometrical analyses of pottery and isotopes can provide useful information for generating cartographical representations of the landscape, which consider more the relationships between people and their surroundings than the imposition of arbitrary borders created by the archaeologist.

10.02.2021 - Baptiste Solard


Title: Back to Black: A Mineralogical and Chemical Characterisation of Atticising 4th Century B.C. Black Gloss


Previous studies on Attic Black Gloss technology focused mostly on pottery productions from Greece, especially Athens. However, Black Gloss dispersed across the Mediterranean over several centuries, constituting one of the most wide-spread decoration techniques from the Archaic to the Hellenistic times. Focusing on both Attic and Atticizing Black Gloss productions from Sicily (Italy) and Asia Minor (Turkey), our work aims to shed new lights on Black Gloss technology and its transmission through the Mediterranean. For this purpose, we applied an integrated analytical approach, aiming to characterize both the chemistry and the mineralogy of our Black Gloss samples. This approach includes micro X-ray diffraction (µ-XRD²), energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), and micro Raman spectroscopy analyses. Specimens from the 4th century B.C. from Manfria (chora of Gela), Iasos (Caria), and Priene (Ionia) were analyzed. These assemblages reflect different productions, as shown by previous chemical and petrographic analyses. Our preliminary results illustrate that these distinct production groups are characterized by significant compositional differences, indicating not only their various provenances but perhaps their diverse production technology as well. This is especially highlighted by the mineralogical composition of the glosses, as shown by µ-XRD², suggesting the presence of different associations of iron oxides in the various production groups identified. Therefore, this study could lead to a significant advancement in the understanding of Black Gloss technology and its diffusion in the Mediterranean.
24.02.2021 - Stephen Buckley 
Title: Sequential Thermal Desorption and Pyrolysis-gas Chromatography-mass Spectrometry: Current State of the ‘Art’ and Future Potential for Archaeometry


Sequential thermal desorption-GC-MS (TD-GC-MS) and pyrolysis-GC-MS (Py-GC-MS) allows the analysis of both free and bound/polymerised biomolecules (lipids, carbohydrates and proteins) and so provides a convenient analytical approach to study complex and degraded amorphous organic residues. 
In a modern context, thermal desorption-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (TD-GC-MS) and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) are used extensively in organic geochemistry to characterise petroleum source rocks in petroleum exploration – they can give clues to the oil potential of the source rocks under study and as such are considered very valuable analytical tools. 
The ability to characterise and identify both free biomolecules and more intractable bound organic material/biopolymers commonly present in aged organic residues makes the combined technique of sequential TD-GC-MS and Py-GC-MS a powerful analytical approach, allowing the characterisation and identification of many organic residues in a wide range of archaeological contexts, particularly where sample availability is limited and/or where minimally destructive investigations are required due to the valuable nature of the material under study. 
The presentation will discuss the use of sequential TD-GC-MS and Py-GC-MS in the study of embalming agents from ancient Egyptian mummies, archaeological brain and organic residues from archaeological dental calculus. It will also consider potential pitfalls and analytical considerations in the context of current research and the future potential for archaeological science of this still somewhat ‘niche’ analytical technique.