Provenance establishment and authentication of South-East Asian ceramics using laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    [Truncated abstract] The sale of fraudulent South-East Asian ceramics constitutes a large proportion of the illegal artefact and antique trade and threatens to undermine the legitimate international market. The sophistication and skill of forgers has reached a level where, using traditional appraisal by eye and hand, even the most experienced specialist is often unable to distinguish between a genuine and fraudulent piece. In addition, the current scientific method of authentication used by the international antiques and art industry, thermoluminescence (TL) dating, carries severe limitations. The technique has an error margin of +/-20 % and requires the removal of a significant piece of the sample being tested, which decreases both the monetary and cultural value of the artefact. Of more concern, forgers have developed methods which produce false test results and which appear to corroborate false claims for the age of artefacts. Consequently, the use of TL dating for authentication of ancient ceramics, especially those of South-East Asian origin, has now come into serious question. The most suitable method for authenticating ceramics is through provenance establishment. Studies published in the literature have investigated the application of various analytical techniques to provide this information for ceramic wares and have highlighted their potential to be used for provenance establishment. However, the value of each of these techniques is limited rendering them generally unsuitable for practical use in the international antiques and art world to authenticate high-value South-East Asian artefacts. Consequently, there is a desperate need for the development of a robust, accurate and non-destructive method which can be practically applied in the industry to authenticate South-East Asian ceramics. ... Minor variations between spectral profiles of artefacts produced in the same country have also been used to further provenance artefacts to a specific production region or kiln site. The results of analyses have been compiled to form a unique reference database which can be added to in the future and used by experts internationally. Adaptation of the developed sampling and analytical methodologies to allow in-situ sampling of large artefacts using the "Laser Hoover", a newly developed platform, is also presented. Ceramic wares belonging to museums, auction houses and private collectors have been tested and these case studies, which demonstrate the practical application of the developed protocols, are discussed in detail. The use of in-house prepared standards for the quantitation of data obtained by analysis of ceramics using LA-ICP-MS has been preliminarily investigated and linear calibration curves have been produced for a range of elements. Quantification of data will allow the compiled reference database to be used internationally and across different instrumental combinations. This thesis makes a significant contribution to the international antiques and art industry, providing a novel, robust scientific method for authenticating South-East Asian ceramics. The accuracy, precision and non-destructive nature of the developed technique far surpasses other methods currently available for use. The preliminary investigation into the quantitation of LA-ICP-MS data for ceramic matrices is also a considerable advance in the field of analytical chemistry with numerous applications not only to the authentication of ancient ceramics but also any sample types with a similar matrix.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2009


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