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Theses and Dissertations

Name:Erin McKendry
Degree:M.A.
Professor:Robert H. Tykot
Year:2015
Title:
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Interpreting Bronze Age Exchange in Sicily through Trace Element Characterization of Ceramics Utilizing Portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF)

  
Abstract:
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Throughout history and prehistory, Sicily has played a key role for maritime trade in the Mediterranean. Interactions with Sicily are attested to in research for various societies throughout the Mediterranean as early as the Neolithic. However, much of this research paints Sicilian societies as passive, focusing primarily on external groups of people in a given period and their influence on the island. By ignoring the importance of the indigenous population, current research lacks a balanced approach to investigations and subsequent conclusions. This is most evident in literature pertaining to Mycenaean interactions with Sicily during the Bronze Age. Ceramic evidence and archaeometric studies can be used to reveal the impetus and scope of these interactions.
This research addresses the nature of exchange in Bronze Age Sicily prior to Mycenaean influence. In addition, my research addresses apprehensions regarding the precision of portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) analysis on archaeological ceramics. Samples of Bronze Age ceramics from eight archaeological sites in southern Sicily were analyzed using non-destructive pXRF spectrometry. Multiple single spot and multi-spot analyses were conducted to assess the precision of the device and the non-destructive application of the technology on potentially heterogeneous materials. Findings show no significant difference in trace element composition levels with either method. Regional signatures of ceramic trace element compositions may be developed and used to assess existing exchange patterns in Bronze Age Sicily. Comparison of ceramic exchange patterns between the Early and Middle Bronze Age suggests that Sicilian populations had a strong local identity and were noticeably inter-connected prior to Aegean influence.