Ceramic Compositional Analysis: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction

Intensive Short Course

Scientific Approaches to Archaeological Ceramic Analysis (training course)

Course dates

Summer 2018: 23-28 July

Course Outline

The core of the course will be focused on training participants on the versatile, affordable technique of thin section ceramic petrography, starting with the principles of polarising light microscopy, optical mineralogy, geological petrology, then moving on to cover the wide range of compositional signatures and features of ceramics under the and the microscope by examining reference material from across the globe.

The course consists daily lectures, practical laboratory classes and demonstrations (see below). 

Thin Section Petrography of Archaeological Ceramics

Monday 23 July

  • Introduction to Ceramic Compositional Analysis. Optical Mineralogy
  • Identification of Mineral Inclusions in Ceramics
  • Classification of Rocks in Thin Section

Tuesday 24 July

  • Composition of Ceramics in Thin Section
  • Identification of Rocks and Minerals as Inclusions
  • Introduction to Ceramic Geochemistry

Wednesday 25 July 

  • Classification and Characterisation of Ceramics in Thin Section
  • Geochemical Classification of Archaeological Ceramics

Thursday 26 July

  • Application of Compositional Data to Ceramic Provenance Interpretation
  • Thin Section Preparation

Friday 27 July

  • Reconstructing Ceramic Technology in Thin Section
  • Introduction to Scanning Electron Microscopy and X-ray Diffraction

Saturday 28 July

  • Scientific Analysis of Non-pottery Ceramics
  • Planning, Sampling, Integrating Data and Interpretation
  • Microscope Revision Session and any other business
Scientific Approaches to Archaeological Ceramic Analysis (training course)

The course will be taught by Patrick Quinn, Senior Research Fellow in Ceramic Petrography at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, a geologically-trained archaeological scientist with 20 years experience in ceramics research and teaching. Patrick is the author of a key textbook on ceramic petrography and has applied it alongside other techniques of ceramic analysis to a wide range of projects from many parts of the world.

UCL Institute of Archaeology houses extremely well equipped scientific laboratories for the analysis of ceramics and other artefacts, including SEM, microprobe, XRF, XRD, FTIR and optical microscopy. It has a long tradition of research and teaching in archaeological materials science including ceramics.


Scientific Approaches to Archaeological Ceramic Analysis (training course)

Registration fee for the course is £500 for EU participants, £700 for non-EU participants. There are limited places for the course and participants will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. A bursary is available for the 2018 course sponsored by Buehler and Logitec, which covers the registration fee.

To register or enquire about the course, contact Patrick Quinn


The course will take place at the UCL Institute of Archaeology in Gordon Square. UCL is located in the historic Bloomsbury area of London, a short walk from St Pancras International Train Station and close to the heart of London’s West End shopping and entertainment district. Accommodation is not included in the registration fee, but a range of accommodation can be found close to UCL, including affordable hotels and budget hostels.

 Key Course References

  • MacKenzie, W. S. and Adams, A. E. 1994. A Colour Atlas of Rocks and Minerals in Thin Section. Manson Publishing, London
  • Pollard, M., Batt, C. Stern, B and Young, M. M. 2007. Analytical Chemistry in Archaeology. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge University Press.
  • Quinn, P. S. (Ed.) 2009. Interpreting Silent Artefacts: Petrographic Approaches to Archaeological Ceramics. Archaeopress, Oxford.
  • Quinn, P. S. 2013. Ceramic Petrography: The Interpretation of Archaeological Pottery & Related Artefacts in Thin Section. Archaeopress, Oxford.
  • Rice, P. M. 1987. Pottery Analysis: A sourcebook. University of Chicago Press.

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