An Insight Into the Scientific Datasets in Archaeological Research Through the Pottery Provenance Case

An Insight Into the Scientific Datasets in Archaeological Research Through the Pottery Provenance Case

Nikolaos A. Kazakis, Nestor C. Tsirliganis
DOI: 10.4018/IJCMHS.2017070104
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Recent trends in archaeological research dictate the incorporation of various analytical methods for dating, chemical/mineralogical characterization, morphological description, etc. of various excavation findings and landscapes to support and corroborate the archaeologists' observations. Each method, when used individually, provides a different feedback, but once single studies are combined, the information produced can significantly contribute to the solution of the archaeological puzzle. Thus, numerous scientific data and metadata are produced creating large and complex scientific datasets. The use of common terminology and definitions to describe these data along with the establishment of a formal standardized structure that any cultural heritage information could be mapped to would assure the credibility and durability of such scientific datasets. The present work provides an overview of the types and formats of the scientific data and metadata produced in the archaeological research through the detailed presentation of the common practices used in pottery provenance studies.
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Approaches In The Archaelogical Research

Traditionally, the study of ancient artifacts was mainly focused on meticulous macroscopic observations by the archaeologists. Conclusions would be derived from their typology, decoration, iconography and chronology, based exclusively on stylistic considerations and aesthetic evaluation of the artifacts as well as their use, role and function. The above could also be complemented in some cases by available historic archive studies. In addition, evaluation of their characteristics would also shed light on the places (e.g. Attics or Corinthian pottery in ancient Greece) and the techniques of production (black-figure), the distribution, the trade routes, the organization and the contacts of the societies they created and exchanged them.

In the late 1950s, the term of Archaeometry was first introduced by Prof. C.F.C. Hawkes to refer to the use of methods and techniques originating from the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, geophysics, biology) and their application to archaeology as well as to art objects, in order to provide solutions for specific questions and problems (Harding, 1994). The term today extends to include the computer technologies and their contribution to the study of the Cultural Heritage and is increasingly referred to as Heritage Science, which actually represents a modern and more sophisticated approach in the archaeological research.

Heritage Science can be regarded as the “forensics” in cultural investigations, since it seeks for information in retrospect, trying to answer primary questions like ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘how’. This is achieved through the amalgamation of several disciplines and the fusion of numerous scientific data that include (though not exclusively):

  • Measurements of physicochemical parameters and properties of materials, environmental and biological samplesl;

  • Analyses of the composition of materials, environmental and biological samples;

  • Study of the ‘structure’ and form of materials, environmental and biological samples;

  • Assessment of physicochemical processes in materials, environmental and biological samples;

  • Spatial data;

  • Statistical data.

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