New milarite/osumilite-type phase formed during ancient glazing of an Egyptian scarab
A scarab found in grave 25 of the Monte Prama necropolis, near Cabras, Oristano, Sardinia, is of special importance for the archaeological interpretation and dating of this important archaeological site. The object has been misinterpreted in the past as composed by bone: recent archaeometric analyses showed that it is a glazed steatite of Egyptian origin and that the altered surface contains interesting phases crystallized during the high-temperature interaction of the Mg-rich talc core with the alkali-rich glass used for glazing. A novel single crystal X-ray diffraction analysis of one of the phases indicates that it is a new compound having the milarite-osumilite structure type, with a peculiar composition close to (Na1.52K0.12□0.36)(Mg3)(Mg1.72Cu0.16Fe0.12)(Si11.4Al0.6)O30, not reported for naturally occurring minerals. The structural and crystal chemical features of the compound, together with the known high-temperature stability of the series, allow a complete interpretation of the glazing process and conditions, based on direct application of the glaze on the steatite core with subsequent treatment at temperatures above 1000 °C.