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Image Analysis in Quantitative Particle Studies of Archaeological Ceramic Thin Sections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2017

Chandra L. Reedy
Center for Historic Architecture & Design, University of Delaware, 240 Academy Street, 331 Alison Hall, Newark, DE 19716 (
Jenifer Anderson
Center for Historic Architecture & Design, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716; and Historic Sugartown Inc., Malvern, PA 19355
Terry J. Reedy
Independent Statistical Consultant, Newark, DE 19711
Yimeng Liu
Center for Historic Architecture & Design, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716; and China Railway Construction Corporation (International) Ltd., Beijing 100855 P. R., China


Thin-section petrography is a crucial tool for the study of archaeological ceramics, and in recent years, image analysis has emerged as a powerful quantitative enhancement of that tool. Exploratory applications of image analysis to archaeological ceramic thin sections, and related work by sedimentary geologists, have indicated its usefulness to the field. In this paper, we first present the results of experimental work testing the consistency and reproducibility of image analysis. We identify procedures for fast and reliable analysis of thin sections using laboratory-prepared ceramic specimens of simple clay-sand systems. We then show how those procedures can be slightly modified to accommodate more complex archaeological specimens. We conclude with a discussion of the role of image analysis within the overall context of thin-section petrography of ceramic materials, as one among a repertoire of techniques, adding quantitative data and increasing the usefulness of ceramic thin sections for addressing archaeological research questions.

La petrografía de lámina delgada constituye una herramienta fundamental para el estudio de cerámicas arqueológicas y en los últimos años, ha surgido el análisis de imágenes como una mejora cuantitativa importante para dicha herramienta. El uso exploratorio del análisis de imágenes en láminas delgadas de cerámicas arqueológicas, junto con trabajos relacionados realizados por sedimentólogos, han demostrado su utilidad en ese campo. En este trabajo presentamos en primer lugar los resultados de investigación sobre la consistencia y reproducibilidad del análisis de imágenes. Identificamos los procedimientos para el análisis rápido y confiable de láminas delgadas, utilizando muestras de cerámica preparadas en laboratorio a partir de sistemas arcillo-arenosos simples. Luego mostramos cómo estos procedimientos pueden ser ligeramente modificados para adecuarse a muestras arqueológicas más complejas. Finalizamos con una discusión sobre el rol del análisis de imágenes dentro del contexto general de la petrografía de lámina delgada de cerámicas, como una entre muchas técnicas, que agrega datos cuantitativos e incrementa la utilidad de las láminas delgadas de cerámicas para abordar estudios de investigación arqueológica.

Research Article
Copyright © Society for American Archaeology 2014

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