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Geosciences 2019, 9(2), 74;

Sumerian Pottery Technology Studied Through Neutron Diffraction and Chemometrics at Abu Tbeirah (Iraq)

Centro Fermi - Museo Storico della Fisica e Centro Studi e Ricerche “Enrico Fermi”, Piazza del Viminale 1, 00184 Rome, Italy
Physics Department & NAST Centre, Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”, Via della Ricerca Scientifica 1, 00133 Rome, Italy
Dept. Instiute of Oriental Studies, Sapienza Università di Roma, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, Downing street, Cambridge CB2 3EF, United Kingdom
Institute of Physics, Fondazione Policlinico A. Gemelli IRCCS, Università Cattolica Sacro Cuore, Largo Francesco Vito 1, 00168 Roma, Italy
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, ISIS Facility, Harwell OX11 0QX, United Kingdom
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 October 2018 / Revised: 24 January 2019 / Accepted: 28 January 2019 / Published: 31 January 2019
PDF [2590 KB, uploaded 1 February 2019]


Pottery is the most common material found in archaeological excavations and is used as the main tool for chronological dating. Due to the geopolitical instability of the Middle East during the latter part of the last century until recent years, Sumerian pottery studies and analyses are limited. The resumption of archaeological excavations in Iraq during the last ten years allows the acquisition of new information and the study of archaeological material excavated through modern stratigraphic methodologies. This paper presents the results of the non-destructive analyses of Abu Tbeirah Sumerian pottery (Iraq) from the 3rd millennium BC and is aimed at analysing the crystallographic composition of ceramic material, therefore contributing to fill a gap in the knowledge of early Southern Mesopotamian pottery production, shedding new light on details of ancient technology and manufacturing techniques. Among the wide range of analytical techniques available, neutron-based ones have been chosen, obtaining detailed analyses in a non-destructive manner. Non-destructive and non-invasive neutron diffraction (ND) was applied in combination with chemometrics such as Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Cluster Analysis (CA). ND confirms a general uniformity of the raw materials and a local Mesopotamian provenance through a comparison with modern local clay. Moreover, secondary minerals and their marker-temperature formation imply two different ranges of firing temperature that never exceeded 1000 °C, a temperature easily reachable through pit-firing techniques. View Full-Text
Keywords: Sumerian pottery; neutron techniques; neutron diffraction; chemometric analysis Sumerian pottery; neutron techniques; neutron diffraction; chemometric analysis

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Festa, G.; Andreani, C.; D’Agostino, F.; Forte, V.; Nardini, M.; Scherillo, A.; Scatigno, C.; Senesi, R.; Romano, L. Sumerian Pottery Technology Studied Through Neutron Diffraction and Chemometrics at Abu Tbeirah (Iraq). Geosciences 2019, 9, 74.

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