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SG203A Program B

Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics

3 Units
Instructor: Prof. Elena Lorenzetti


Morning Lectures: Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM (2 weeks)

Classroom: San Giovanni Battista

  • Lectures are dedicated to the presentation of material, ceramic technologies and evolution of ceramics in Italy from the archaic to modern age.

Afternoon Workshop: Monday – Friday, 2:00 PM to 6:30 PM (2 weeks)

  • As part of the course, students will be working on a field project – a complete analysis of a Roman Age ceramic’s context through visual inspection, scientific testing, morphological analysis, drawing, and a written scientific analysis of the context.

  • There also will be an afternoon visit to the nearby ancient Roman City of Carsulae.


 5/27 Sun

5/28 Mon

5/29. Tue

5/30. Wed

5/31 Thu

6/1 Fri

6/2. Sat

6/3 Sun

6/4. Mon

6/5. Tue

6/6 Wed

6/7. Thu

6/8. Fri

Arrival in San Gemini

Visit to  Roman city of Carsuale
Elena Lorenzetti  3:00PM-7:00PM

Studying pottery: goals, points of view, methods
From clay to pottery: raw materials, purifying, forming.

From clay to pottery: decorating, coating, firing.

Analyzing pottery: function, description.

Cataloging/drawing workshop

Free day

Free day

History of ceramic productions: archaic pottery

History of ceramic productions: hellenistic and roman pottery 1

History of ceramic productions: hellenistic and roman pottery 2

History of ceramic productions: medieval and modern pottery; History of ceramic productions: transport amphoras

Final report preparation: diagrams and charts

Brief Historical Overview of Umbria

cataloging/drawing workshop

cataloging/drawing workshop

cataloging/drawing workshop

Ceramics used in Architecture

cataloging/drawing workshop

cataloging/drawing workshop

cataloging/drawing workshop

cataloging/drawing workshop

Report writing

Course Description

No Prerequisites required

REQUIREMENTS: Courses SG 203B is complementary to this course and must be taken in the same session.

This course introduces students to the study of archaeological ceramics from multiple perspectives with a view toward acquiring the tools necessary for the full study of an archaeological context. Through lectures and hands-on workshops it examines both materials and production methods used over time in the Western world. Classes also study historical typologies of architectural ceramics and pottery that are found in Italian archaeological sites, analyzing archaeological artifacts from local excavations (6th C. BC – 20th C. AD) and learning to perform the following tasks: identifying and sorting ceramic sherds; performing typology analysis of “diagnostic” sherds (including analytical drawings and diagrams); and cataloging and documenting ceramic sherds.

Led by a practicing field archaeologist expert in Roman ceramics, this course forms the first half of the program Restoration and Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics. The lecture classes give an overview of ceramic technology and its evolution over time; it also explores the various typologies of pottery and architectural ceramics found in Italian archaeological sites. In the afternoon workshop students work with archaeological artifacts from local excavations (6th century BC – 20th century AD) and learn to perform analysis and documentation of sherds.

Course Objectives

The course studies materials and ceramic production methods, the history of ceramics and statistical methods of data elaborations.

The objectives of this course are to provide basic theoretical and practical knowledge and skills in the field of analysis of archaeological ceramics. For students planning a professional career as an archaeologist, this course is an introduction that will be a building block for further education. For students who plan to be involved in the process of conservation and historic preservation, this course offers a useful overview of the complementary issues and processes involved in the field.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • Identify various ceramics, their use in antiquity, their physical properties, and choose the appropriate analyzing methods.

  • Catalogue, make diagrams and draw ancient ceramics.

Summary of Lecture Content


Historical introduction to San Gemini and the region

• History of the evolution of the city of San Gemini

• Visit to the city of San Gemini

• Visit to the ancient city of Carsulae

Why study pottery

• Pottery in context: the multiple meaning of a ceramic sherd, points of view, goals, methods of cataloging.

Historic ceramic materials and technologies

• Nature of materials: physical and chemical properties, origin and historical use

• Clay forming: techniques, tools, functional shapes and their historical evolution

• Drying: the physical process, recognizing flaws

• Firing: from the clay to the pot, the chemical and physical process, flaws and results

• Decorating and coating: tools and materials, applycation techniques; historical evolution of the techniques

• Describing and drawing pottery: the description as analyzing method, the parts of a pot, the correct method for a complete and scientific documentation

Evolution of ceramics in Italy

• Archaic: from archaic coarse ware to bucchero pottery, the birth of Roman power

• Classical: from black gloss to Roman sigillatae, the slave production system and the history of Roman trade through pottery

• Medieval: from the archaic maiolica to the colorful production of Renaissance

• Early modern: from maiolica to industrial productions

Archaeological context and ceramic

• Inorganic and organic materials: nature and properties

• The environment of abandonment

• Ceramic decay: processes and morphology

Afternoon Workshop: Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics

Visual inspection

• Recognizing materials, techniques, marks and flaws

Scientific Testing

• Materials

• Dating


• Morphology

• Clay forming

• Firing

• Materials




Slips and glazes

• Stylistic analysis

Documentation and recording

• Drawings

• Diagrams

• Documentation


Description of Assignments


Reading list supplied with acceptance to the program.


  • Participation/Field work: Complete various assignments that are given as part of the field project (50%).

  • Assignments: Term Paper #1: 8-page paper on the analyzed context (50%).

Grading scale:

94-100 = A. 90-93 = A-
87-89 = B+. 84-86 = B
80-83 = B- 77-79 = C+
74-76 = C. 70-73 = C-
67-69 = D+. 64-66 = D
60-63 = D- Below 60 = F

Earlier Event: May 27
SG204A Program C
Later Event: June 23
FT1 Intersession Field Trip