Petrography: Optical Microscopy

Patrick Degryse, Dennis Braekmans

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientific


Petrography has developed into an indispensable tool for ceramic fabric analysis, specifically studying the mineralogical and textural composition of ceramic objects. Petrography is a technique commonly used in geology to describe and classify rocks. Ceramic petrography studies clay-based archaeological or historical materials. Using a polarizing light microscope (PLM) in ceramic studies, the different raw materials used to make a ceramic object can be identified, ranging from clays and other minerals to rock fragments and inorganic or organic temper. The technique moreover feeds into the study of raw material provenance and origin, and is able to discern the different technological procedures followed to make the ceramic object (from shaping to firing), next to providing clues on the function of the object. This information not only helps reconstruct trade and exchange of raw materials and ceramics, but aids in reconstructing society behind the pot.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Archaeological Ceramic Analysis
EditorsAlice Hunt
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199681532
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • petrography
  • ceramic objects
  • mineralogical composition
  • polarizing light microscope
  • raw materials

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