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Application of ICP-MS trace element analysis in study of ancient Chinese ceramics


Thirty-nine trace elements of the Song-Yuan period (960–1368 AD) porcelain bodies from Cizhou, Jizhou and Longquanwu kilns were analyzed with ICP-MS, a technique rarely used in Chinese archaeometry, to investigate its potential application in such studies. Trace element compositions clearly reflect the distinctive raw materials and their mineralogy at the three kilns and allow their products to be distinguished. Significant chemical variations are also observed between Yuan and Song-Jing dynasties samples from Cizhou as well as fine and coarse porcelain bodies from Longquanwu. In Cizhou, porcelains of better quality which imitate the famous Ding kiln have trace element features distinctive from ordinary Cizhou products, that indicates geochemically distinctive raw materials were used and which possibly also underwent extra refining prior to use. The distinct trace element features of different kilns and the various types of porcelains from an individual kiln can be interpreted from a geochemical perspective. ICP-MS can provide a large amount of valuable information about ancient Chinese ceramics as it is capable of analyzing >40 elements with a typical of precision < 2%.

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Correspondence to Baoping Li.

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Li, B., Zhao, J., Collerson, K.D. et al. Application of ICP-MS trace element analysis in study of ancient Chinese ceramics. Chin. Sci. Bull. 48, 1219–1224 (2003).

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  • Cizhou kiln
  • Jizhou kiln
  • Longquanwu kiln
  • Ding kiln
  • ancient ceramics
  • Chinese Song-Yuan period
  • trace elements
  • ICP-MS