Ceramic micropalaentology : the analysis of microfossils in archaeological ceramics with special reference to its application in the southern Aegean
Within the scientific analysis of archaeological ceramics, four principal aims can be specified: description, classification, the reconstruction of ceramic technology and the determination of provenance. In order to achieve these, sophisticated methods of thin section analysis have been developed which permit the retrieval of detailed information about the nature of the rock and mineral inclusions as well as the textural features of the ceramic micromass. One important group of inclusions which occur in many archaeological ceramics are the organic or mineralised remains of various microscopic animals and plants, collectively referred to as microfossils. Microfossils are studied in detail only rarely by ceramic petrographers, however they contain information pertaining to the geological age and palaeoenvironment in which their host sediment was deposited, and as such can be used to characterise and provenance the raw materials of ceramic manufacture. Whilst holding great potential for the analysis of archaeological pottery, there are also a variety of problems associated with these types of inclusions, such as their alteration and removal by various processes during the production and post-depositional history of ceramics. Specialist analyses of microfossils in archaeological ceramics are small in number and biased towards the investigation of diatoms from the Neolithic to Iron Age pottery of north-west Europe. This thesis represents the first comprehensive study of the occurrence and utility of all microfossils in archaeological ceramics and is divided into two main sections. The first comprises a detailed account of the occurrence, preservation, methods of analysis, behaviour upon firing, and utility of all groups of microfossils in archaeological ceramics. This reappraisal is followed by several individual case studies from the Bronze Age of Crete and elsewhere in the Mediterranean which utilise calcareous microfossils to address a variety of archaeological questions of varying geographical scale and detail concerning ceramic provenance and technology.