Evaluation of relative comparator and k 0-NAA for characterization of Aboriginal Australian ochre

  • Rachel S. Popelka-FilcoffEmail author
  • Claire E. Lenehan
  • Michael D. Glascock
  • John W. Bennett
  • Attila Stopic
  • Jamie S. Quinton
  • Allan Pring
  • Keryn Walshe


Ochre is a significant material in Aboriginal Australian cultural expression from ceremonial uses to its application on many types of artifacts. However, ochre is a complex material, with associated surrounding minerals potentially challenging the overall analysis. In recent literature several studies have attempted to characterize ochre by a variety of techniques to understand procurement and trade. However, ochre is difficult to differentiate on major elemental or mineralogical composition and requires a detailed analysis of its geochemical “fingerprint”. Neutron activation analysis (NAA) provides the high sensitivity (sub-ppm), precision and accuracy in multi-elemental analysis required for ochre. The elements of interest for ochre generally include rare earth elements (REEs) and certain transition metal elements as well as arsenic and antimony. Data from relative comparator NAA (MURR, University of Missouri, USA) is compared with data from k 0-NAA OPAL (ANSTO, Lucas Heights, Australia). A discussion of the two methods will be examined for their utility in “fingerprinting” the provenance of ochre. The continuing importance of NAA to archaeometry will also be discussed.


Neutron activation analysis k0-Neutron activation analysis Nuclear archaeometry Method comparison Ochre 



Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Fellowship, AINSE grant 8103, Australian Research Council (ARC) grant LP0882597, MURR National Science Foundation (NSF) 0802757, Neutron Activation staff at ANSTO and Archaeometry Laboratory staff at MURR, Ms. Jiafang Bei (South Australian Museum), Dr Elizabeth Mackey (NIST), Dr Ross Chadwick and Ms Alice Beale (Western Australian Museum).


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel S. Popelka-Filcoff
    • 1
    Email author
  • Claire E. Lenehan
    • 1
  • Michael D. Glascock
    • 2
  • John W. Bennett
    • 3
  • Attila Stopic
    • 3
  • Jamie S. Quinton
    • 1
  • Allan Pring
    • 4
  • Keryn Walshe
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Chemical and Physical SciencesFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  2. 2.University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR), University of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)Lucas HeightsAustralia
  4. 4.Department of MineralogySouth Australian MuseumAdelaideAustralia
  5. 5.Department of AnthropologySouth Australian MuseumAdelaideAustralia

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