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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-10192022-094530

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Open Fabric. Archeometric data to build a pottery database.
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Cantini, Federico
correlatore Prof. Vandenabeele, Peter
correlatore Dott.ssa Raneri, Simona
commissario Prof. Chapoulie, Remy
commissario Prof. Vermeulen, Frank
  • archaeometry
  • database
  • open access
  • pottery
Graduation session start date
Release date
The development of techniques exploiting physical and chemical principles in favour of archaeologic research, called archaeometry, gave interesting outcomes, allowing the archaeologist to interrogate ancient objects to obtain insights on molecules and chemical elements present. Those insights are valuable to determine the object characteristics connected to provenance, production, deterioration and much more. This synergy covered a large variety of materials including archaeological potteries, which are usually found in large numbers in archaeological excavations. They actually represent a relevant work field, as it can be related to the habits of past societies, helping to reconstruct important aspects influencing their lives as wealth, trade routes, and technologic advancement.
Various techniques can be applied to this complex, long-lasting material, depending on the characteristics of the studied typology of pottery and on the different questions an archaeologist aims to answer. Some of the most used archaeometric techniques in the pottery field are: minero-petrographic analysis through Optic Microscope (OM); Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM); X-ray Fluorescence (XRF); Raman Spectroscopy, just to mention few of them, but the possibilities are many more.
The increasing use of those techniques is producing a rather considerable amount of data which needs to be properly managed to be used at need and eventually shared. Data sharing is actually one of the keys to reconstruct complex social dynamics as trades and, more in general, the movement of goods, people and knowledge in a designed area. Therefore, the aim of this research is the collection of analytical data, both qualitative and quantitative, regarding archaeological potteries in Tuscany area belonging to a timespan going from Late Antiquity to Early Renaissance. Those archaeometric data will be useful for the archaeological interpretation and discussion regarding the past societies, allowing to integrate archaeological knowledge with modern scientific techniques. In this framework, to encounter the European directories and facilitate data sharing and reuse, the data were collected in a database called Open Fabric. The Open Fabric database is open, allowing the download of the raw data to compare and reuse them.
Open Fabric database is open and interoperable following the general trend and international guidelines of opening data in scientific research to improve knowledge. Much has been said and done about the data sharing, and a prove of this diffuse effort is represented by the various databases available for scholars online, dealing with various areas such as the Flemish region or the Mediterranean basin.
The Open Fabric database aims to integrate the archaeological information with the results of archaeometric techniques for the determination of production areas, the exploitation of raw material sources and the technologic choices made in workshops. For this purpose, five categories of pottery were chosen, namely building materials, glazed, fine tableware, coarse wares, and transport vessels. For each class, suitable archaeometric techniques were chosen to answer questions about provenance, manufacture technologies and to discriminate different productions. Four main archaeometric methods were applied: minero-petrographic analysis, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray Fluorescence and cathodoluminescence (CL).
The sample-oriented dataset obtained was therefore organized in form of a database, using the proprietary yet widespread Access Database Management System. Other than information about the samples and the raw data coming from the archaeometric analysis, data about the excavation place are included, georeferenced using the World Geodetic System WGS84 standard reference system and with reference articles about the excavation, when available. Also, some insights on the raw materials basins are offered, to better trace the productions and the trade routes followed by the finished objects.
The user is able to see the general data about samples in the “sample” page where pieces can be researched by name, excavation place and according to how they relate with the utilization site, in other words if they are local or imported. Other pages offer insights on the results obtained with archaeometric technique, where raw data is available, supported by metadata and paradata, and downloadable for further use, if needed.
Open Fabric database is accessible on Mappa Open Data repositories (10.13131/unipi/archelogicadata/28k2-hn40).