A Multi-scale Study of Ancient Ceramics Using a Series of Analytical Techniques

Abstract : Ceramic artifacts have a long history and have been discovered worldwide. Their conservations are rarely impacted by the burial sites. Thus, they are ideal materials for understanding the human history and culture. The main archaeological studies concerning ancient ceramics contains provenance (dating, workshop, trade), raw materials (identification, origin), manufacturing process and utilization (analysis of content residues). For my work, I focused on the investigation of the manufacturing process. The main steps of fabrication process of ancient ceramics is composed of selection of raw materials, preparation (leaching, purification, body, glaze or slip, pigments), shaping (the plastic paste is shaped to the lathe or using the molds). Then, there are two possibilities: either the vase is fired before the decoration stage, or the decoration is applied to the raw vase. To finish, the whole is fired. My objective is to obtain information on the manufacturing process by analyzing the structure of ancient ceramics, and in particular the structure of decorative layers. The structure of ancient ceramics is complex with heterogeneities at different scales (mm to nm). A decorated ceramic generally is composed of a body and a coating, which including of the decoration. The coating could contain different natures. The thickness can be variable from mm to nm. The decorative layer can be a part of the coating or the whole coating. The decorative layer can be constituent of an amorphous vitrified phase and diverse crystals, such as colorant crystals, feldspar, quartz, etc., of which the size varies from several microns to nanometer. The description of such structure requires the analysis at high resolution (nm) with large representative zone (often, several mm3). It is difficult to realize. In my work, I proposed an alternative approach. The approach is based on three stages. Firstly, the rapid investigations (principally, optical microscopy) at low resolutions are effected to analyze and select the zone requiring analysis at high resolution. Secondly, the selected zone is analyzed at high resolution by appropriate techniques according to the information sought. Thirdly, I try to construct the structure of the object based on the partially data, and therefore deduce the manufacturing process. I will illustrate this approach through three examples. The first one concerns the yellow pigment of the Roman marbled terra sigillata (Chapter III). The second one is about the firing process of Attic potteries (Chapter III). The third one concerns the color variations of blue decoration of Qinghua porcelains (Chapter IV).
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Tian Wang. A Multi-scale Study of Ancient Ceramics Using a Series of Analytical Techniques. Physics [physics]. INSA de Toulouse, 2016. English. ⟨NNT : 2016ISAT0052⟩. ⟨tel-02011149⟩

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