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Petrographic and chemical characterization of Bronze Age pottery from the settlement of Mount San Paolillo (Catania, Italy)

Abstract

The excavations at Mount San Paolillo (Catania, Italy) led to the discovery of a Prehistoric site that still represents the most important evidence of Middle and Late Bronze Age settlement in this area. During the excavations, archeologists located a hut, a store for ceramic storage vessels, and a pottery workshop, all of which provided a large quantity of heterogeneous ceramics with apparent typological parallels in other areas of Sicily, such as Syracuse, Augusta, and Messina. A large number of specimens were selected in order to cover all the macroscopic types and the main classes. The results identified four petrographic fabrics. Most of the ceramics are characterized by abundant tempers consisting of volcanic rock fragments and occasionally of grog. Only a few samples contained common fine-grained quartz. The groundmass ranges from non-micaceous to very micaceous. In some cases, there is evidence of mixed clays. Analysis of the chemical composition of the ceramics revealed the existence of two groups with low and high CaO contents. The high Fe2O3 content (more than 8.7 wt%) is probably due to the use of temper from altered pyroclastic rocks which are of local provenance as SEM-EDX data suggest, even if petrographic and chemical results suggest that different raw materials may have been used. The data provided by these archeometric analyses have made a significant contribution to the study of Middle and Late Bronze Age pottery from the Catania area, by offering insights into the methods, production processes, and high technical level of the prehistoric craftsmen.

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Acknowledgments

This study was financially supported by Research Group RNM179 of the Junta de Andalucía and by the Research Project MAT2012-34473. We are grateful to Nigel Walkington for his assistance in translating the original text. C. R. and R. B. C. P. are very grateful for the “Faro-Global” Grant they received for their research at the University of Catania.

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Correspondence to Giuseppe Cultrone.

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This contribution is the extended, peer reviewed version of a paper presented at the session “Archaeometry and Cultural Heritage: the contribution of Geosciences” held during the conference “The future of the Italian Geosciences, the Italian Geosciences of the future,” organized by the Società Geologica Italiana and the Società Italiana di Mineralogia e Petrologia, Milano, September 10–12, 2014.

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Rodríguez, C., Bermúdez Coronel-Prats, R., Barone, G. et al. Petrographic and chemical characterization of Bronze Age pottery from the settlement of Mount San Paolillo (Catania, Italy). Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei 26, 485–497 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12210-015-0421-6

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Keywords

  • Prehistoric pottery
  • Sicily
  • Petrographic analysis
  • Chemical analysis