Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Industrial Archaeology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Social Sciences


Timothy J. Scarlett


Advances in portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) technology have made it a viable option for the non-destructive exploration of the underlying chemical composition of ceramic artifacts for the purposes of classification. However, because the literature regarding the use of this instrument on historic artifacts is limited, it is necessary to begin with a broad scale exploratory assessment that might act as a jumping off point for future studies on this topic. Toward that end, this research uses a collection of British and Continental European ceramics ranging from 1650-1920, owned and curated by the Chipstone Foundation in Fox Point, WI, to explore the efficacy of using pXRF to sort and source those materials. The chemical patterns in the data are tested against the known provenance of these artifacts which has been pre-determined by ceramic experts and material culture analysts.

Of the 102 samples that have been tested, primary focus is given to items crafted in London and Staffordshire which account for the largest portion of artifacts in the dataset. Principle component analysis is used to better understand the underlying structure of the entire dataset to ultimately reduce the number of chemical variables to those that best distinguish each group. Using those particular chemical variables, a separate dataset of London and Staffordshire mean intensity readings is subjected to factor analysis which resulted in two components being identified. The calculated factor scores are incorporated into a binary logistic regression model to determine if the samples can be correctly sorted into their pre-established provenance categories. A second model that incorporates the year of production is also presented which shows an improved ability to classify those samples. These results are ultimately situated within the historic context of the pottery making industry in England which was highly influenced by the Industrial Revolution and developments in ceramic technology.