Session: #237

Theme & Session Format

Digital archaeology, science and multidisciplinarity: new methods, new challenges
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

From Element Concentration to (Pre)history – pXRF as Tool for an Interpretive Archaeology
In addition to the established laboratory methods, pXRF has experienced a real boom in archaeology in recent years. Due to further development of instrument technology and miniaturisation of the devices, today it is possible to conduct analyses directly in situ in the field or in archaeological collections. On one hand, the fast and cost-effective measurements also allow the processing of large series of objects, which enables statistical evaluation. On the other hand, non-destructive pXRF analyses can also be used to sample outstanding and thus particularly meaningful cultural objects that need to be undamaged for the future.
While pXRF is well established in some areas - e.g. for provenancing obsidian or volcanic rock as well as metallurgical analysis - the method is less common regarding other artefact categories. While also considering the significant variation in the analytical performance of pXRF compared to highly sensitive laboratory methods for different materials, this session will specifically focus on the potential of analytical data obtained by this method to reconstruct the past.
We invite speakers to present the applications of pXRF in archaeology, in particular for raw material analysis and provenancing, which are embedded in further considerations of manufacturing and socio-historical aspects.
What do different concentrations of elements mean with regard to the mobility of objects and people?
In which circumstances can we speak of “foreign objects”?
How can different raw materials be incorporated into stylistic differences that we can conceive archaeologically?
Which models of social and cultural anthropology are suitable to better understand the use of foreign raw materials?
Can general trends – e.g. of raw material preferences, “trade routes” etc. – be identified?
With this session we aim to highlight the high potential of pXRF as an intrinsic archaeological research tool in the context of interpretative assessment and to open up new perspectives.
portable X-ray fluorescence analysis, provenancing, sociocultural and economic interpretations
Session associated with MERC:
Session associated with CIfA:
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Main organiser:
Regine Stapfer (Switzerland) 1,2
Michael Brandl (Austria) 3
Martin Hinz (Switzerland) 1
Caroline Heitz (Switzerland) 1
1. Institute of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bern
2. Archäologischer Dienst des Kantons Bern
3. Austrian Academy of Sciences, OREA-Institut, Raw Material Lab