Polarized-light Microscopy in Archaeology
(NMC 462Y)

This course is intended to provide students with training in the use of polarized-light microscopy in the examination of archaeological materials, particularly pottery (ceramic petrology). It comprises a lecture component and a lab component. Lectures will begin with an intense overview to enable students to apply their knowledge in the lab immediately, and will go on to re-cover the same ground in more detail. Lectures will comprise instruction in crystallography, optics, mineralogy, lithology, and other aspects of the petrology of ceramics and other materials. Lectures in the second semester will comprise case studies of the application ceramic petrology, including fifteen-minute presentations by the students. The lab sessions will comprise three hour a week on the polarised-light microscope examining standard thin-sections and writing a lab- report on each thin-section. Prior knowledge of geology is not necessary for this course.

Prerequisite: NMC 369H, Archaeological Materials and Industries, or permission of instructor.

Evaluation: Final mark comprises 50% from labs (20 best lab reports at 2.5% each) and 50% from class tests and presentations (4 tests and one presentation at 10% each).

Syllabus: a one-hour class each week will heavily involve use of a polarized-light microscope; a three-hour lab will consist of practical use of the polarized-light microscope.

1st Semester.

Class 1: Scope of course, methods of study.

Class 2: Intensive "first semester in an hour" class.

Class 3: Crystal systems, crystallographic axes, crystal habit, twinning. Classifications: native elements, sulphides, sulpho-salts, oxides, halides, oxy-salts, silica, silicates. Pseudomorphism, isomorphism. Physical properties: sight (shape, colour, lustre, cleavage/parting/fracture, diaphaneity) tests (hardness, streak, magnetism, sectility, acid reaction).

Class 4: TEST 10% of final mark

Class 5: Optics: light (polarisation, isotropism, anisotropism), refraction, birefringence, dispersion, absorption, pleochroism, extinction (undulatory, parallel, symmetrical, inclined).

Class 6: Minerals: opaques; isotropic (garnets); anisotropic (olivine, zircon, epidote, tourmaline, pyroxenes, amphiboles, micas, talc, chlorite, serpentine, feldspars, quartz, gypsum, carbonates, phosphates)

Class 7: Rocks in pottery thin-sections: igneous (textures of volcanic rocks), metamorphic (textures and facies of metamorphic rocks), and sedimentary (textures and types of limestones, phosphatoids, etc)

Class 8: Pottery specifics, grog, voids (plant, mineral), stonepaste, glazes and slips

Class 9: Description: abundance, sortedness, size

Class 10: mineral identification and pottery examination in ordinary light magnification

Class 11: Other materials in thin-section I: Rocks

Class 12: Other materials in thin-section II: bone, plaster, coprolites - you name it!

Class 13: TEST 10% of final mark

2nd Semester.

Class 1: example study: Ancient Near Eastern ceramics

Class 2: example study: Medieval Middle Eastern ceramics Part One.

Class 3: example study: Medieval Middle Eastern ceramics Part Two.

Class 4: example study: Crete

Class 5: example study: Belize (guest speaker)

Class 6: TEST 10% of final mark

Class 7: example study: North American practices

Class 8: Class presentations: 15 minutes each, 10% of final mark.

Class 9: Class presentations: 15 minutes each, 10% of final mark.

Class 10: Class presentations: 15 minutes each, 10% of final mark.

Class 11: Class presentations: 15 minutes each, 10% of final mark.

Class 12: example study: Tintagel

Class 13: TEST 10% of final mark.

Suggested texts:
Deer, W. A. et al, An Introduction to the Rock-Forming Minerals (2nd Edition).
MacKenzie, W. S. and C. Guilford, Atlas of Rock-Forming Minerals in Thin-section.

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