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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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800-Year-Old Shipwreck Porcelain Analyzed

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Porcelain cargo analyzedCHICAGO, ILLINOIS—Cosmos Magazine reports that a team of researchers from the University of Illinois and The Field Museum have used portable X-ray fluorescence technology to analyze the chemical compositions of 800-year-old porcelain vessels recovered from a shipwreck in the Java Sea in the 1990s. Based upon their style, the more than 100,000 pieces of porcelain were thought to have been made at four specific kiln-complexes in southeastern China. The scientists measured the glazes and pastes on 129 porcelain pieces for levels of 13 elements, including magnesium, phosphorus, lead, silver, and cadmium, and compared the results with data obtained from different types of pottery fragments at various kiln-complex sites. They found that the mix of elements in the glazes were enough to confirm that the pieces had indeed been crafted at the four kiln-complexes the archaeologists had identified based on their initial visual inspections. To read about a molded box found at the site of the same shipwreck, go to “Artifact.”

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