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Elephant ivory, a prestigious and valuable raw material in the post-Roman West and Byzantium between the 5th and 7th centuries AD, may originate from various sources. While both written and art historical evidence suggests that in the case of early medieval artefacts, African provenance is more likely than Asian, no data at hand is conclusive. The present paper investigates, with the help of FTIR and Raman spectroscopy, carbon and nitrogen concentration and nitrogen isotope (δ15N) analyses, the material resources of elephant ivory artefacts discovered in 6th- and 7th-century AD archaeological context in the Carpathian Basin to contribute to our understanding of late antique long-distance trade networks and economic relations.

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Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Anna Ridovics
Zoltán May
Bernadett Bajnóczi
, and
Mária Tóth

From the mid-15th century “berettino”, or “turchino”, lighter and darker, deep blue, cobalt-bearing glazes were used on Italian maiolica objects. At first such vessels were made mainly in Faenza, later they spread to Northern Italy and from the 17th century they became popular throughout Europe. According to written sources and archaeological finds, potters working in the Anabaptist-Hutterite settlements used blue glaze right from the start. From the second half of the 17th century there was an increase in the quantity of light and dark blue vessels that were made in many places. In the course of archaeometric research using a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (XRF), more than 500 Hutterite and Haban objects were analysed; of these circa 140 had a blue glaze. The measurements made on blue glazes and decorations found uranium in addition to cobalt in 107 objects. Some of the 17th century vessels and stove tiles were made in Alvinc (Vinţu de Jos, Romania), Sárospatak, and probably in Szobotist (Sobotište, Slovakia). The vessels with a blue or a white glaze, generally painted roughly with a brush, form a characteristic group provisionally attributed to a “mining town workshop”. Their production began at the end of the 17th century and was passed on by tradition until the 1780s. The workshop probably operated in the vicinity of a mining town in the former Zólyom county, along the upper reaches of the Garam river, in the vicinity of Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica, Slovakia).

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The Hutterites and Habans produced coloured-glazed, mostly blue- and yellow-coloured vessels alongside their white-glazed faience ware. However, the production technology of the coloured-glazed vessels, specifically the nature of the glaze, is a matter of debate among scholars. Both coloured tin glaze and coloured engobe covered with a transparent lead glaze were thought to have been applied on the ceramics.

Around 140 objects of blue-glazed Hutterite and Haban museum objects and archaeological artefacts were analysed using a handheld XRF spectrometer. In addition, small fragments of selected ceramics were studied by electron microprobe analysis (EMPA).

According to the XRF measurements the blue glaze of all except one of the studied Hutterite and Haban ceramics contains tin in variable amounts (from about 0.015 wt% up to 13 wt%). The EMPA technique showed that tin in the form of tin oxide opacifier was deliberately added to the single-layered alkali– lead or lead–alkali glaze. These data confirm that the tin glaze technique was used during production of blue-glazed ceramics, and in this respect they can be regarded as faience. The blue glaze of the Haban vessels produced by a “mining town” workshop contains tin in very low concentrations (Sn <0.2 wt% by XRF), therefore the opacity of the glaze is mainly caused by the abundant silica and arsenate particles.

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