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The International Symposium on Archaeometry

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Tampa 2010


The 38th ISA took place in a wonderful and ideal conference setting at the Marshall Student Center inside the University of South Florida campus on 10-14 May 2010. This included a splendid auditorium with all facilities, and a very spacious beautiful and well lit poster room at the same floor. This in combination with the fact that all coffee breaks were served inside the poster room gave the opportunity for a thorough reading and discussion of all the papers presented in poster form. A cafeteria with bagels etc, in the ground floor, which opened early enough in the morning for breakfast, completed the ideal conference set up. The participants stayed mainly at Mu Hall student residence and nearby hotels. The lunches were organized in a University restaurant building very close to the Marshall Center. The welcome reception took place at Busch Gardens, an African type zoological garden park and the Symposium dinner at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City. Finally, the half day excursion was to the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, a Pre-Columbian Ceremonial Indian-Mound Complex, including a boat trip in the river, altogether very enjoyable. Professor Robert Tykot, the organizer, with the help of his colleagues has fully succeeded in providing what we really need for a successful Archaeometry Symposium. The participants and the Standing Committee of ISA are very grateful.

The papers presented at the Symposium, both in oral and poster form, were particularly interesting and intellectually stimulating. The diversity of topics, materials, geographical regions and periods covered were remarkable. In the five days of the Symposium the participants gained a great deal of new knowledge about new techniques, methods and applications, on a great variety of cultural materials. Taking the sessions one by one the works that were presented can be briefly summarized as follows:

The Stone, Plaster and Pigments (Technology and Provenance) Session
  1. New methodological approaches and applications on provenancing several different kinds of stones were presented. Examples were: the characterization and provenance of sandstone Khmer figurines from Cambodia, and sandstone of building stones, the analysis and provenance of a very large number of obsidians from Sardinia and Italy with a portable non-destructive XRF, a new technique for marble provenance based on fluid inclusion and so on.
  2. New methodological approaches and applications for the characterization and determining recipes for ancient mortars and plasters.
  3. A lot of interesting papers on pigments, which became a very strong session indeed. I can mention characterization of pigments and painting techniques in rock art, iconography, and paintings. New techniques and methods were presented for characterizing colourants, like a portable Mössbauer spectrometer and the use of hydrogen isotopes for the provenance of turquoise. Also comparison of trace element techniques, the symbolic use of ochre and so on.
The Field Archaeology Session
  1. Very impressive was the application of airborne radar for detecting Maya sites using a laser beam that literarily looks through the trees and scans the ground topography. An area of 23 sq km! in Caracole, Belize was scanned in a few days.
  2. Also very interesting were the application on prospection using standard magnetic techniques but also portable pXRF.
The Archaeo-chronometry Session

The papers presented included: Changes of human settlement patterns causing abandonment of sites for at least 700 years in North Greece and Balkans was detected using radiocarbon dating, a critical approach to the radiocarbon results for dating the Thera eruption date, dating of cord keeping objects from the Andes, a new and detailed methodology and protocol for the long standing problem of mortar dating with radiocarbon, recent developments in non-destructive radiocarbon dating of fragile organic artifacts, Luminescence dating of South African sites, obsidian hydration dating, fluoride dating possibilities and prospects, etc. We should attract more papers on dating in the future because this is an essential part of Archaeometry.

The Metals and Metallurgical Ceramics Session

The papers included fascinating studies on: Arsenical copper smelting in chalcolithic Serbia, the operation of perforated furnaces for lead-silver production in the EBA Aegean, the upper Mesopotamian metallurgy in EBA, use of magnetite ores in iron smelting, metal ores and metallurgy in Iberia, isotopic studies of metal ores in southwestern USA, metallurgy in Israel and so on. Very interesting studies were also on: Gold in ancient Egypt and its position relating to the dynasties, silver provenance trade between Africa and Europe, indigenous silver production in Peru, metallic encounters in Cuba-Colombian contacts and cultural interactions, zinc production in South China in cleverly uniquely designed pots, indirect process of iron production, and many other interesting studies.

The Bioarchaeology Session

This session turned out to be quite strong and fascinating in this Meeting. The papers included: Paleopathology and dental stresses, the use of millet in China for making cakes, noodles and implications on diet, new method for provenancing ancient textiles, microscale sealed vessel pyrolisis used for identifying wax and fat in mummies and their use as a hairdressing coating in ancient Egypt, new insights to find chemical markers with PIXE/PIGE in archaeozoology studies, making a better use of stable isotopes (especially 15N) for paleodiet assessment, paleoproteomics and DNA, the origins of tuberculosis and malaria (not arised from cattle), regional variation of Sr isotopes in the biosphere and its relation to the geology creating high resolution proxies for archaeological applications, and finally a lot can be learned from the study of animal coprolites by micromorphology and DNA.

The Special Theme Session was dedicated to: Isotopic analysis of human skeletal remains.

Due to its subject this session although more specific on isotopes was also related to bio-studies extending thus the weight the Bioarchaeology field had in this Symposium. In this session impressive was the scientific work which has been done in order to understand how isotopes, like 15N, work in assessing human diet, quantifying changes in fish consumption in Roman and early medieval Italy using stable isotope analysis (M.J. Aitken student poster award). Also studies on the biosphere of Sr and other isotopes, and the relation of Sr isotopes in biosphere to underlying bedrocks in Britain and the creation of a significant database. All these are very important for future skeletal studies.

The Ceramics, Glazes, Glass and Vitreous materials (Technology and Provenance Session)

This whole session is always the most popular session of ISA and the same holds for this meeting, including some 74 papers that were presented. In the Ceramics and Glazes part papers included: Finding diagnostic elements for the provenance of ceramics, revisiting older analysis, application of QXRD and high resolution microscopy methods for characterizing ancient ceramic matrices, many studies on provenance of ceramics using petrography which is developing into an advanced tool, heavy mineral separation and counting appeared also as a useful technique for provenancing pottery, the high fired-glazed ceramic technology from China, lead isotope analysis of white slip sherds from LBA sites in Cyprus, the Roman fish factory and its amphorae in Portugal, porcelain modern mixtures, assessment of recipes for American majolica and the China, Colombia and Maya ceramic studies gave a new angle to this session. In the Glass and Vitreous materials part papers included: A new database with Nd isotope values for the Mediterranean sand deposits and its applicability for tracing the raw materials for glass production (M.J. Aitken student poster award) will prove invaluable for future studies on the raw glass production origins, characterization studies on Mycenaean glass, Hellenistic glass and Roman black glass, early faience beads from China and so on. This session apart of applications was also characterized by hard scientific works to gain more insights and better understanding of the raw materials and provenance of glass including Sr and Pb isotope analysis for tracing the trading of glass beads in Africa through time. Furthermore, a lot of interesting works were presented on the colouring methods of ancient glass and assessment of various portable and non-portable techniques.

The Human-Environment Interaction Session

This session was highlighted in this meeting by some very interesting works on: How climatic changes can influence human behavior and the means of extracting this information with climatic models or oxygen isotopes, the human-landscape interaction assessed with geomorphology, phytoliths, pollen analysis and satellite imaging. Also, analysis of archaeological soils in India and other places to determine human occupation activities, reconstructing paleovegetation shifts with stable carbon isotopes etc.

The Integrated Site Studies Session

This session was designed for archaeologists or other scholars giving papers that combine archaeological research involving excavation and cultural interpretation in combination with scientific studies of findings at the site. This has not worked to this extent so far as the papers submitted to this session involve multi-disciplinary scientific approaches to materials at a site. Nevertheless the papers presented were of high quality and involved: A study of the first painted cave in Nicaragua including the use of plasma chamber to separate and date the charcoal, an integrated and thorough study of the pigments of rock art in a Dordogne Rock shelter, multi-analytical approach to funerary material, an integrated soil analysis work using pXRF and spot test to determine the intensity of human occupation at different parts of the site at Santa Cruz Antizapan, Mexico, and a study based on archaeology, dendrochronology, archaeobotany and archaeometallurgy to trace the construction and use of the workshop for King Canute at Viborg, Denmark.

M.J. Aitken student poster awards

The students play always an important role in the advancement of the field of Archaeometry. For this reason the Symposium has established a system of awards for the two best student posters in every meeting. For their contribution to research and the best presentation of their work this year’s awards have gone to:

Dieter Brems, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
Nd isotopic variation in Mediterranean sand deposits and its applicability as a tracer for raw materials used in ancient glass production by D. Brems, S. Boyen, M. Ganio and P.Degryse

Erika K. Nitsch, Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, UK
Quantifying changes in fish consumption in Roman and early Medieval Italy using stable isotope analysis by E.K. Nitsch and R.E.M. Hedges

The committee who evaluated the student posters and selected the two best, one of each of the two poster sessions, composed of Ronald Farquhar, Jean-Francois Moreau, Sarah Weissmann and Henk Kars all members of the S.C.

We wish the students who received the awards good progress with their studies and a successful career in Archaeometry.

Y. Maniatis
Chairman of the S.C.
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