Thin Section Petrography of Archaeological Ceramics: Methods and Application

Intensive Short Course: 4-15 April 2016

Ceramic Petrography fieldtrip 2014

Course Description

This 10-day intensive course introduces participants to the methodology and application of thin section petrography to the study of archaeological pottery and other ceramic artefacts.

The course leads participants with an arts or science backgrounds through the principles of polarizing light microscopy, optical mineralogy, geological petrology and the essentials of archaeological ceramic petrography. By the use of case studies and a wide range of comparative geological and archaeological materials, the course provides explicit training in the use of petrography alongside other analytical techniques in determining ceramic provenance and reconstructing ancient pottery technology.

Upon completion of the course, participants should have attained the key knowledge and practical skills required to undertake masters dissertations and doctoral research projects in ceramic petrography.

The course consists of 10 one-hour lectures and 10 three-hour microscope classes, which follow daily themes (see below). A fieldtrip on Sunday 10 April offers participants an opportunity to examine rocks and clay resources in the field and links the geological and archaeological portions of the 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 nearly 20 years experience in ceramic petrography research and teaching. The course is an intensive version of Patrick’s course that ran at University of Sheffield between 2005-2010 and is also taught as part of the Institute's MSc in Technology and Analysis of Archaeological Materials and MA in Artefact Studies.


Registration fee for the course is £600 for EU participants, £800 for non-EU participants and £1000 for participants from industry. There are limited places for the course and participants will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. No bursaries are available for attending the course.

To register or enquire about the course, contact Patrick Quinn or download the registration form.

**The course is now full for 2016. Please contact Patrick Quinn for details of the 2017 course dates. **

Thin Section Petrography of Archaeological Ceramics


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.

Course Schedule

  • Mon 4 April - Archaeological Petrography. Optical Mineralogy
  • Tues 5 April – Igneous Rocks and their Identification in Thin Section
  • Wed 6 April - Sedimentary Rocks and their Identification in Thin Section
  • Thurs 7 April - Metamorphic Rocks and their Identification in Thin Section
  • Fri 8 April - Clays, Soils and Weathering
  • Sun 10 April – Ceramic Raw Materials in the Field
  • Mon 11 April - Introduction to Ceramic Petrography. Composition and Grouping
  • Tues 12 April - Ceramic Thin Section Characterisation
  • Wed 13 April - Interpreting Ceramic Provenance in Thin Section
  • Thurs 14 April - Reconstructing Ceramic Technology in Thin Section
  • Fri 15 April - Petrography of Non-Pottery Ceramic Materials

 Key Course References

  • MacKenzie, W. S. and Adams, A. E. 1994. A Colour Atlas of Rocks and Minerals in Thin Section. Manson Publishing, London
  • 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.

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