Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 763–775 | Cite as

Sourcing and processing of ochre during the late upper Palaeolithic at Tagliente rock-shelter (NE Italy) based on conventional X-ray powder diffraction analysis

  • Giovanni Cavallo
  • Federica Fontana
  • Federica Gonzato
  • Antonio Guerreschi
  • Maria Pia Riccardi
  • Giorgia Sardelli
  • Roberto Zorzin
Original Paper


Upper Palaeolithic yellow and red ochre samples recovered in the last 40 years at Tagliente rock-shelter in the Lessini Mountains (Verona, NE Italy) were analysed by means of conventional X-Ray Powder Diffraction (XRPD) and compared with goethite- and hematite-based natural geomaterials coming from geological deposits within a distance of approximately 20 km from the archaeological site. XRPD allowed the yellow ochre sourcing area to be focused on the basis of characteristic and distinctive mineral assemblages. In addition, several samples clearly demonstrated that archaeological red ochre was obtained by thermal treatment of yellow ochre as shown by characteristic peak intensities, shape and the presence of maghemite (γ-Fe2O3). XRPD was a very powerful tool for a preliminary discrimination and grouping of a large quantity of archaeological ochre, in order to outline a preliminary hypothesis on the provenance area and to narrow down the number of samples to be studied in the next future through geochemical and structural analysis in order to confirm the proposed interpretation.


Goethite Hematite Archaeological ochre Lessini Mountains Tagliente rock-shelter Ponte di Veja 



We express our gratitude to Prof. Norberto Masciocchi of the University of Insubria and To.Sca.Lab (Como, Italy) for his great support in the access to the facilities of the Department of Science and High Technology and for the fruitful discussion on many aspects related with XRPD data processing. We would also like to thank Regione Veneto and the Municipality of Grezzana for the financial support to archaeological researches that allowed recovering the rich assemblage of ochre samples from Riparo Tagliente.

We are grateful to the anonymous reviewer whose comments, suggestions and recommendations improved significantly the quality of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

12520_2015_299_MOESM1_ESM.docx (35 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 34 kb)
12520_2015_299_MOESM2_ESM.docx (53 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 53 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Cavallo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Federica Fontana
    • 3
  • Federica Gonzato
    • 4
  • Antonio Guerreschi
    • 3
  • Maria Pia Riccardi
    • 1
  • Giorgia Sardelli
    • 3
  • Roberto Zorzin
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Materials and ConstructionsUniversity of Applied Sciences and Arts - SupsiCanobbioSwitzerland
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Studi UmanisticiUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly
  4. 4.Soprintendenza for Archaeological Heritage in VenetoVeronaItaly
  5. 5.Civic Museum of Natural HistoryVeronaItaly

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