A mild winter at the Fitch: the Lousoi project of the Austrian Archaeological Institute
In the winter of 2018 I spent six weeks at the Fitch Laboratory analysing Late Geometric to Archaic pottery from the Sanctuary of Artemis Hemera, in Arcadian Lousoi. This archaeometric study is part of a wider project directed by Michael Kerschner of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (https://www.oeaw.ac.at/en/oeai/research/cult-and-sanctuary/lousoi-pre-classical-pottery/).
Since written sources of this period are scarce, the study of the sanctuary’s material culture plays a significant role in reconstructing the regional and supra-regional network that it was embedded in. With this in mind, the main aims of my research consist of assessing how local pottery production was organised, reconstructing the chaîne opératoire, and investigating whether vessels with clear ritual connotations show different manufacturing procedures to those without such associations.
During my stay at the Fitch, I analysed thin sections from ceramic samples selected—on the basis of their macroscopic fabrics, typological, and technical features—last year in Lousoi. Preliminary results indicate local production and quite standardised recipes for containers intended for drinking, as well as for miniature vessels, and some Corinthian-type vessels.
However, it is likely that most of the Corinthian-type vessels found in Lousoi were produced in Corinth, since their fabrics compare well with the Amphorae B fabric identified by Ian Whitbread (1995), whose thin sections are part of the Fitch´s reference collection. Future plans for this project include the analysis of new vessels from Lousoi and coeval sites of the region (e.g. Psophis, Skepasto), a geological survey to locate clay and temper sources, as well as bulk chemical analysis using wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence at the Fitch.
Besides the unarguable level of expertise and resources (in terms of analytical facilities, scientific staff, variety of projects and reference collections), the informal and collaborative atmosphere is what makes the Fitch a special place to be (and to come back to soon!). I always felt warmly welcomed and embraced, making the early morning and long microscope sessions more manageable. This unique combination of human and scientific qualities generates a creative synergy among people, which is much more interesting than mere networking.
Pamela Fragnoli, Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna. Head of the Research Group “Material Analyses” and of the Unit “Archaeometry”