This past month I have been busy in Stockholm analysing sherds from the Medelhavsmuseet and just finished with a day and a half to spare. In total I analysed 2531 sherds and of those 1038 were recorded with the XRF. The Merimda ceramics are a very interesting assemblage, with a lot of variability in the sizes, forms, and materials of the ceramics. Although I suspect this may be in part due to the large sample size as opposed to some of the other collections which I am looking at. My work in Stockholm has been posted to the Medelhavsmuseet website and can be found here: http://samlingar.varldskulturmuseerna.se/x-ray-fluorescence-reveals-the-story-behind-ceramic-artefacts/
The pXRF was lent to me by Bruker UK for the duration of my research. The machine, with the right settings and calibrations, records the elemental composition of an object (Figure 1). In some cases readings can be used to tell if an object is real or fake, such as in art museums. For ceramics, it is useful for identifying groups of artefacts, what sources of clay were being used, and potentially identifying trade between sites. The benefit of the pXRF is that it is small and light, looking like a ray gun from Star Trek and weighing under 10kg. This is good because it can easily be transported on planes and carried to different museums.
The staff at the Medelhavsmuseet and at Tumba have been very accommodating to my visit and have gone out of their way to make sure that I have everything I need. Most of my time in Stockholm was spent alone analysing artefacts, which is not a bad thing as it gave me time to concentrate and get things done. However, in the evenings there were archaeology lectures I could attend, which broke up the week a bit. The museum there in Stockholm is well worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood, and if you do go by make sure to have a look at the Egyptian prehistory room. It is quite flash.
My next stop is Vienna and on Monday will start analysing those collections. I will be unable to go to Egypt as planned so I will likely return to the UK for a few days in the middle of October before returning to Auckland. The work does not stop there though. The XRF data requires work to make sure that the readings are calibrated correctly. Once this is done other aspects such as the size and shape of the pottery will be looked at. Sounds simple enough, the PhD will write itself! Right?
Next time, Vienna!