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Stefano Pagnotta
Stefano Legnaioli
Beatrice Campanella
Emanuela Grifoni
Marco Lezzerini
Giulia Lorenzetti
Vincenzo Palleschi
Francesco Poggialini
Simona Raneri


In the study of ancient pottery, thin section analysis represents the basic approach to study mineralogical

and petrografic features in order to obtain preliminary information about the production technology and

origin of archaeological ceramics. However, even if thin section analysis allows investigating the textural

and structural characteristics of potteries, peculiar features related to clay paste and temper composition, as

well as provenance issues, can be detailed addressed only by quantitative mineralogical and chemical

studies. In the realization of thin sections, a negative face is always produced, similar to the thin section

itself; these remains can be used for additional analyses, such as high spatial resolution micro-chemical

studies using, for example, a micro-laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) scanner.

LIBS is a spectroscopic technique that, exploiting the laser radiation, is able to bring into the plasma state

micrometric portions of the sample, and to analyse its content through the study of the optical emission of

the plasma itself. Unlike other techniques, LIBS can detect and quantify also light elements such as

aluminium and magnesium. Images produced by the micro-LIBS instrument show the spatial distribution of

the chemical elements within a portion of the sample, which may have dimensions from a few hundred

microns up to several centimeters. The combination of these images with algorithms derived from image

processing techniques may return interesting information and supporting data to in-depth investigate

pottery components detected by optical microscopy observations. In this work, we present the results of an

experimental study performed on thin-section negatives with different grain size, surface treatments and

aggregates, coming from some Neolithic Italian sites, exploring the potential of the LIBS method in micro

chemical studies of ancient potsherds.

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