Geologica Belgica

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Trace elements in provenancing raw materials for Roman glass production (An inaugural lecture to the Society)

(volume 12 (2009) — number 3-4)
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Mots-clés : KEYWORDS: Archaeometry, LA-ICP-MS, mineral resources, Nd isotopes, Sr isotopes


ABSTRACT. It has been shown before that the combined use of Sr and Nd isotopes allows the geographical origin of Roman primary glass production to be traced. Nd isotopes are characteristic of the mineral fraction other than quartz in the silica sand used for the glass, while Sr isotopes are in most cases characteristic of the lime component, either attributed to the sand or as a separate constituent in the form of shell. In this study, the relationship between a sand raw material and the resulting ancient glass in terms of their trace element and Sr-Nd isotopic compositions is investigated. Especially the relevance of REE versus the use of isotopic techniques in the provenance determination of glass production is evaluated. The REE content of Roman glass is shown to be dependent on the clay fraction of the sand, and is identical for most possible provenance areas in the Mediterranean. Conversely, elements such as Zr, Hf, Ti, Sn are controlled by heavy mineral concentrations in sand and offer great potential as indicators of glass provenance.

To cite this article

Patrick DEGRYSE & Andrew J. SHORTLAND, «Trace elements in provenancing raw materials for Roman glass production (An inaugural lecture to the Society)», Geologica Belgica [En ligne], number 3-4, volume 12 (2009), 135-143 URL :

About: Patrick DEGRYSE

Afdeling Geologie, K.U.Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, bus 2408, BE-3001 Leuven, Belgium, E-mail:

About: Andrew J. SHORTLAND

Centre for Archaeological and Forensic Analysis, Department of Materials and Medical Sciences, Cranfield University, Shrivenham, Wiltshire SN6 8LA, United Kingdom, E-mail: