Normally, an excavation project would seek to date as many carbon samples as possible, explains Boaretto.
But in this case, the team conducted pre-screening in the field and then did a preliminary analysis in the lab of some 150 initial samples using infrared and Raman spectroscopy.
The complex layers of ash, clay and gravel make the sites difficult to analyse and it has been hard to find pure samples of organic material such as charcoal and bone for carbon dating.
"In environments in which there is a lot of ash, charcoal doesn't preserve well, and throughout China there are deposits of windborne dust that contain a lot of calcite, an element of wood ash," explains Boaretto's colleague Steve Weiner, of the Kimmel Center for Archeological Science at the Weizmann Institute.
According to my attempts to identify some of the sherds, we found mainly “coarse” and some “refined” earthenware, with “red, orange, and buff pastes,” and barring “lead opaque glaze, tin enameled lead glaze, and unglazed” decoration (Florida Museum of Natural History).
It seems likely that these sherds could have been pieces of jars/jugs, pitchers, or bowls.
Some of the sherds from different SUS (the three excavated this year and those excavated in the past) have the same paste and glaze and many are similar in their texture and coloring.
To begin identifying a few of the various pottery sherds found in Unit 6, I followed the procedures outlined in “Identifying Your Finds: First Steps in Identifying Pottery” by Dave Weldrake and the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Introduction to Ceramic Identification” collection.
Some characteristics of sherds useful to archaeologists include temper, form, and glaze.
Until now, the earliest previous finds in East Asia were dated to 15,000–16,000 years ago.
In a new study, physicist Elisabetta Boaretto of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and archaeologist Xiaohong Wu of Peking University in Beijing and their colleagues show that humans were making containers out of fired clay even earlier than was previously thought.
My best, although very inexperienced, guesses for usage would be that it was either once a part of a water pitcher, or, if the West Room did, in fact, serve as a smith, at some point, that it was used to hold water for cooling hot iron.
The two pieces of white-glazed pottery from SU 12 appear to be “tin glazed lead (Florida Museum of Natural History)” earthenware, which, according to Weldrake, could suggest that it was crafted in the 16 century.
These characteristics can be used to determine the kinds of resources and technologies used at the site.