5th Experimental Archaeology Conference Poster Abstract – Katherine Brown

From the 5th Experimental Archaeology Conference, Reading, 2011.

Chemical Analysis of a Reconstructed Hut Floor in the “Celtic” Village at St. Fagans, Wales

Katherine Brown

Department of Chemistry, University of Reading

This investigation into the chemistry of a reconstructed Iron Age Round House floor (the Moel-y-Gaer Roundhouse, St. Fagans, Cardiff) in 2009/10 utilised a range of analytical techniques: X-Ray Florescence, X- Ray Diffraction, and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. The aim was to discover whether chemical traces left by activities carried out on site could be identified, with particular reference to: the Phosphorus levels on site; distinguishing between layers observed in a hearth; whether woollen items (stored or excavated) could be detected using Sulphur concentrations and whether lime wash decoration traces could be detected in the soil near the walls.

The tests revealed lower levels of Phosphorus on site (in comparison to the immediate surroundings), almost certainly as a result of pre-excavation conditions. Higher levels of Calcium and Magnesium were detected as a result of the decoration of the hut, while Potassium and Sodium levels clearly demonstrated the area and layers of the hearth. Sulphur concentrations did appear to be higher in areas where wool was found as a small find, but not in areas where wool had been stored. Possible locations of a quern and two cauldrons were revealed through concentrations of Iron and Copper. This initial work highlights the potential of chemical analysis, both on reconstructed and original sites, to contribute to understanding of the Iron Age.

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