In archaeological research, mineralogical analysis can deliver important insights into an artifact’s use, manufacture, and originality. However, researchers must ensure that the analysis method is not destructive to the artifact.
X-ray diffraction is a useful way to carry out mineralogical analysis without damaging artifacts. This application note outlines the process and results of non-destructive testing with the Empyrean diffractometer (equipped with a microdiffraction technique) on the materials of two Erlitou Bronze Age plaques.
Erlitou was a Chinese early Bronze Age urban society in Henan Province between 2000 and 1500 BC. Erlitou was the largest capital in the Chinese region until 1500 BC, with several palaces, and was a center of production for bronze objects. The Erlitou society is probably connected to the Xia dynasty, often considered the first dynasty in Chinese history.
A small number (under 20) of plaques with turquoise pieces in the shape of an animal mask are known from Erlitou culture. Characteristic elements are symmetry, raised eyes, small eyelets, and the use of mostly rectangular inlay. The two plaques tested were of this kind, from a private collection, and measured 14.1 x 9.5 cm and 13.8 x 9 cm, respectively.
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