University of Malta

Characterisation of Maltese Clays and Fabrics
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Characterisation of Maltese Clays and Fabrics (CMCF)


Institutions: Department of Classics and Archaeology (Faculty of Arts), Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering (Faculty of Engineering), University of Malta


Project coordinator: Dr Maxine Anastasi (Department of Classics and Archaeology)


Collaborators and researchers: Dr Ing. John C. Betts (Department of Classics and Archaeology), Dr Daniel Vella, (Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering)  Ms Diane Chircop, Dr Alexandra Bonnici  (Dept. of Systems and Control Engineering, Faculty of Engineering)


Funded by the Research Fund, University of Malta


Description: The scope of this project is to develop a coherent and feasible strategy for characterising clay sources and ancient ceramics from Malta with the aim of sampling local pottery fabrics using a range of scientific techniques available locally, to identify the geological components present in the fired clay. Most studies of ancient pottery on Malta have been limited to macroscopic analyses, although over the last few years, much exciting research has been accomplished on the scientific characterisation of pottery fabrics from the Maltese Islands by collaborators abroad (i.e. FACEM). One of the primary intentions for embarking on this project is to develop methods and local expertise through a collaboration of several departments within the University of Malta itself. Samples of Roman pottery from Maltese archaeological contexts will be analysed using a whole host of well-established scientific techniques (i.e. XRF, XRD, LIBS, and SEM/EDX to cite a few) to experiment and develop local capabilities in characterising pottery. The purpose is to eventually create an open-access database of high-resolution data and images, which records the geological and chemical components that characterise the composition of local Roman-period ceramics, and which will complement the growing body of research on pottery characterisation. The database will be open access and hopes to offer an impetus to develop student research topics and research/public interests.


Project aims: 

1. Malta-scale project plan for characterisation and mapping of pottery record; to include an online database as the eventual final result 

2. Investigation of potential characterisation techniques for archaeological pottery using locally available equipment.

3. Characterisation of raw clay sources, as well as the firing of local clays to determine possible ancient thresholds of firing temperatures and their characterisation


Last Updated: 2 October 2017

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