Dating fired-clay ceramics using long-term power law rehydroxylation kinetics

Moira A. Wilson, Margaret A. Carter, Christopher Hall, William D. Hoff, Ceren Ince, Shaun D. Savage, Bernard Mckay, Ian M. Betts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Citations (Scopus)


Fired-clay materials such as brick, tile and ceramic artefacts are found widely in archaeological deposits. The slow progressive chemical recombination of ceramics with environmental moisture (rehydroxylation) provides the basis for archaeological dating. Rehydroxylation rates are described by a (time)1/4 power law. A ceramic sample may be dated by first heating it to determine its lifetime water mass gain, and then exposing it to water vapour to measure its mass gain rate and hence its individual rehydroxylation kinetic constant. The kinetic constant depends on temperature. Mean lifetime temperatures are estimated from historical meteorological data. Calculated ages of samples of established provenance from Roman to modern dates agree excellently with assigned (known) ages. This agreement shows that the power law holds precisely on millennial time scales. The power law exponent is accurately 1 4, consistent with the theory of fractional (anomalous) ‘single-file’ diffusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2407–2415
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2108
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2009


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