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Provenance research on Cypriot pottery classes circulating in the Eastern Mediterranean during the Bronze and early Iron Age

Principal Researcher: Christina Makarona (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

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The collaboration between archaeological ceramic research and geoscience has been a long and fruitful one. Mineralogical, trace element and petrographic analysis raw clays and ceramics sherds are some of the techniques that most prominently assisted and enriched archaeological research. The current project aims to go one step further and explore the potential of a much more targeted technique from the domain of geology, isotopic analysis.

This project builds upon previously successful research at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, regarding the application of lead isotopic analysis for pottery provenance. Now a new dimension is introduced with the utilization of strontium isotopes. The combination of both constituents can provide a more complete picture regarding both the silicate and carbonate fingerprint of a ceramic material. Applying this combined methodology both to raw materials and pottery sherds can, therefore, provide very specific information about the possible place of origin of an artifact as well as the technology used to create it (mixing of different materials, selection of specific fractions, tempering). This new dimension of information when coupled with elemental analysis, petrography and mineralogical analysis can prove an invaluable tool in disambiguating provenance questions.

The methodology will be tested in different archaeological contexts. The list of chosen samples includes:

  • Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age pottery from the island of Cyprus, in order to explore intra-island exchange patterns of both material culture objects and know-how, as well as the connections of Cyprus with other major civilizations of that period.
  • pottery from the same period from assemblages of mainland Greece and Minoan Crete sites, in order to establish trade pathways between specific Cypriot cities and their neighbors to the West.
  • Philia phase ware (end of Cypriot Chalcolithic – beginning of Early Bronze Age) in an attempt to shed light into the relationships between the prominent island communities.

Finally, raw material samples from Cyprus will be analyzed as well to provide an isotopic signature of the island. This material will include samples used for the creation of the Geochemical Atlas of Cyprus (in collaboration with the Geological Survey Department of Cyprus) in order to benefit from linking isotopic and trace element data.