Clay raw materials and evidence of primary production of ceramics in western Asia Minor

Archaeometric reference data is the basis for a well-founded scientific determination of origin of archaeological artifacts. In addition to clay raw materials, the analysis in particular of remains of primary pottery productions, such as wasters, unfired vessels, or molds permit the creation of local-regional petrographic and geochemical fingerprints. 

While geological maps provide a general overview of the rock deposits in a landscape and therefore can suggest the possible composition of the clay sediments deposited in them, archaeometric reference patterns are an indispensable instrument in order to verify and specify the origin of ancient ceramics, to point out pottery traditions, or to emphasize the diversity of the local-regionally available clay pastes.

Petrographic-mineralogical reference patterns


Pioneering work permitting a detailed petrographic and heavy mineralogical definition of the ceramic production of Ephesos and central Asia Minor trace back to R. Sauer (Vienna). The data was generated through a detailed description of architectural ceramics, pottery from kilns within the Ephesian city limits, or vessels associated with certain productions according to archaeological criteria and is the basis for a unique resource for further research at the Department of Archaeometry at the OeAI. Petrographic analyses permit the identification of mineral and rock components of clays and can aid in making the methods of the clay manipulation by the potter better understandable.

Elementary composition of ancient pottery


Geochemical studies such as X-ray fluorescence or neutron activation analysis can narrow down the orign of archaeological pottery and are suitable, in particular, for the clarification of questions dealing with fine wares. To date, research was centered predominantly on Archaic and medieval ceramics production and distribution but now also includes sample series of prehistoric and Roman pottery. 

Geological field survey


Geological survey have been conducted since the 1990s, mainly by R. Sauer, and primarily cover the area around the ancient city of Ephesos but also the surrounding landscape. The survey area reaches from Zeytinköy, Kuşadası to Șirince.

Diachronic evaluation of ceramic remains 


The increase of archaeometric reference data is essential not only in terms of the determination of origin of archaeological objects but also for the diachronic assessment. Preferences for the use of specific clay raw materials in the pottery production are thus visible and can be ascribed to the availability and knowledge of specific deposits in the various periods but can also suggest a conscious choice of raw materials for the production of specific vessel shapes and their function.