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Lab for Interdisciplinary Research on Archaeological Ceramics

(LIRAC)

The Lab

The Lab for Interdisciplinary Research on Archaeological Ceramics was founded by Dr. Kostalena Michelaki in 2004, and is currently directed by Dr. Andy Roddick. This laboratory includes three laboratory spaces for microscopy, clay work and analysis, and artifact photography/recording.  In the LIRAC microscopy and sample preparation laboratories are a number of tools, including (but not limited to): 

Current Research Projects:

Dr. Andy Roddick

Dr. Andrew (Andy) Roddick arrived at McMaster in the Fall of 2011. Since 2000 he has been excavating sites and analyzing ceramic materials in the highlands of Bolivia as part of the Taraco Archaeological Project, or TAP. His research examines potting tradition in the Lake Titicaca Basin, considering the learned social practices behind the skillful production of Late Formative ceramic vessels.  He is currently working on a project documenting the variability in raw materials and pastes/fabrics in the Southern Titicaca Basin. Paste recipes play an increasingly important role in both defining the cultural chronology of this region, and also for defining community interaction and innovation throughout the Formative.  This project, currently supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant consists of raw material survey and the use of optical mineralogy (thin section petrography) and geochemical techniques, including X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction and Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and optical mineralogy (thin-section petrography). These analytical techniques are being used on both geological raw materials and Formative Period pottery.  These data are being inputted into a database that will be open to regional researchers. He is also working on a Wenner-Gren funded ethnographic and historical archaeology project in a modern potting community in the Lake Titicaca Basin.

Figure 1.1: Community members of Chijipata Alta (Bolivia) excavating tempering materials (left)

Dr. Gregory Braun

Gregory Braun is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto. Since 2008, he has conducted research at LIRAC that focuses on petrographic analyses of ceramic and lithic objects from a variety of archaeological projects. His PhD research focused on Iroquoian materiality – the ways in which the manufacture, use, and discard of objects articulated with social and religious rituals in Ontario Iroquoian society; his results suggest that certain material qualities of Iroquoian objects, including the raw materials used in their manufacture, served as symbolic referents to memories of social and religious rituals. This investigation was supported by data derived from materials-science techniques, including petrography, LA-ICP-MS, use-wear analysis, and experimental replication studies. He has also conducted petrographic analyses of Neolithic pottery assemblages from Calabria, Italy as part of the Bova Marina Archaeological Project; Iron Age pottery/plaster from central Jordan as part of the Mudayna Thamad Archaeological Project; and the Late Neolithic pottery recovered from `Ain Ghazal, Jordan. His post-doctoral research will focus on South Asian pyrotechologies, using materials-science techniques to investigate faience and metallurgical slags.

Figure 2: Temper fragment of felsic gneiss with biotite laths, found in Iroquoian cooking pot (XPL, λ-plate). (right)

Sally Lynch

Sally Lynch is a PhD candidate who is investigating the ceramics of the Late Moche Period (500 - 850 AD), specifically the "Coastal Cajamarca" plate-wares that emerged during the Late Moche Period when highland-coastal interaction reached unprecedented levels. Specifically, Sally is examining their production and consumption at the site of Huaca Colorada in the Jequetepeque Valley of Peru. These important vessels are assumed to have been locally produced (i.e. coastal) versions of foreign styles (i.e. highland). Further analysis, however, is necessary to verify this assumption and explore the context of their production (i.e. are they actually local?) and use in coastal contexts. Sally’s research in the LIRAC laboratory is using the petrographic microscope to identify the potential geological connections of "Coastal Cajamarca" platewares, to examine the minerals and rock fragments that make up the "paste" of these vessels, as well as their highland counterparts. Sally is preparing all her own samples for petrographic research in both the LIRAC laboratory and the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research that houses our Petrothin machine. Once completed Sally analyzes her samples using the optical microscope in the LIRAC Petrography Lab. 

Figure 3:  Sally Lynch analyzing Moche ceramics on the North Coast of Peru (left)

Daniel Ionico

Daniel Ionico is an MA student at McMaster University. His thesis research analyzes pottery pastes/fabrics created by Contact-Era (1615-1650 CE) Neutral Iroquoian potters that inhabited what is now the City of Hamilton. Stylistic choices in raw materials and their preparation can reflect the social context in which they were made. Ceramic pastes therefore become a window to understanding conditions of social interaction and fluidity in Iroquoian societies. This project employs assemblages housed at McMaster’s Sustainable Archaeology for a macroscopic multi-attribute analysis and for a petrographic study in McMaster’s LIRAC Microscopy Lab. Petrographic techniques can be used to track these choices in paste recipes and their implementation at various sites on the landscape. This theoretically driven project encourages a ‘sustainable’ practice of archaeology in Ontario by using extant collections and can enrich our understanding of Iroquoian societies.

Figure 4:  Daniel Ionico’s thin section of a ceramic from the Neutral Iroquoian site of Christianson (1615-1632 CE) site (right)

Sophie Reilly

Sophie Reilly is a Masters student researching foodways in the Late Formative period (200 BC-300 AD) of the Lake Titicaca basin of highland Bolivia. She is working to develop a more complete understanding of food in the past by studying both the plant remains of food as well as the ceramic vessels in which food was prepared, stored, and consumed. Reilly is studying ceramic attributes – such as paste, form, firing techniques, and finish – to learn about the technological choices that potters made while producing these vessels. In another McMaster archaeology laboratory, the McMaster Paleoethnobotany Research Facility (MPERF), Reilly is also studying the microbotanical residues recovered from these ceramic sherds to identify the plants that were present in the ceramic vessels. In studying both ceramics and food remains, Reilly hopes to understand the daily practices that went into preparing meals in the Late Formative Period.

Figure 5: Sophie Reilly extracting botanical remains from a Late Formative (200 BC-300 AD) pottery sherd in the highlands of Bolivia (left)

Danielle Crecca

Anthropology major Danielle Crecca is currently working with Dr. Roddick in producing radiographic images of both pottery collected from archaeological sites and from contemporary potting communities in Bolivia.  Danielle is using the Micro-CT Scanner housed at Sustainable Archaeology. This tool provides archaeologists with a   non-destructive view inside objects. (See University of Western’s Amy St. John’s work with this tool on Ontario ceramics).  Our goal here is to explore the possibilities of such imaging for tracking  minute variations in skill across time and space. 

A model of a Bolivian pot produced at Sustainable Archaeology (University of Western Ontario)

Katarina Borisov, Alicia Chang, and Jason Lau

Katarina, Alicia and Jason are Anthropology majors at McMaster University. They are helping Dr. Roddick with some photogrammetry work. This method, which is becoming increasingly common, allows archaeologists to produce reliable 3D digital models of artifacts to measure and manipulate them. Students are photographing ceramic materials currently held at LIRAC and also producing models from a large collection of images from Max Uhle’s work in Bolivia captured at the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin. These models will be used for more detailed analysis of the artifacts, and to share findings with international colleagues. 

Capturing images of a Late Formative stone artifact at the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin. Such images will be used for creating a 3D model for future analysis. 

Contact Us:

McMaster University
Chester New Hall (CNH) room 524
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4L9
905-525-9140 ext. 23913

Contact Dr. Andrew Roddick

Links and Resources

ARCHAEOMETRY RESEARCH @ MCMASTER

McMaster’s Archaeological XRF laboratory, directed by Dr. Tristan Carter
http://maxlab.ca/

Analysis of organic residues at McMaster:Michael Gregg (http://www.michaelwgregg.com/ArchSci/Welcome.html) and Greg Slater (http://www.science.mcmaster.ca/geo/faculty/slater/index.html) have been working towards extracting organic residues from pottery.

Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy (supported by the Brockhouse Institute for Materials Research) http://ccem.mcmaster.caa

McMaster’s Nuclear Reactor
http://mnr.mcmaster.ca/


USEFUL CERAMIC RESOURCES

Ceramics for the Archaeologist
Ann Sheppard’s classic text Ceramics for the Archaeologists is available for download care of the Carnegie Institution for Science.
http://carnegiescience.edu/publications_online/ceramics_archaeologist/default.html

An interview with Jim Stoltman on ceramic petrography
http://vimeo.com/35922518

University of College London’s excellent intensive short course (taught by Dr. Patrick Quinn)
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/studying/continuing/courses/petrography

Ceramic Petrology Facility at the University of Toronto
http://www.utoronto.ca/nmc/mason/petrology.html

Laboratory for Analysis of Cultural Materials at the University of Delaware
http://www.udel.edu/CHAD/laboratory.html

Desert Archaeology Ceramic Petrography Laboratory
http://www.desert.com/petroweb/petrology.php

Petrodatabase
http://www.petrodatabase.com/

UNCW ceramic petrology links
http://people.uncw.edu/smithms/cerpet.html