Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled with energy-dispersive x-ray detection was used to study fragments of fine pottery excavated on the archaeological site at Locri Epizephiri (Southern Italy). The fragments analysed were specimens of black coated ware and included pieces suspected to have been produced on the site in the course of the fourth and third centuries BC and suspected imports from foreign centres of production. Comparison between the composition of slip and body of the samples indicated that selection and refinement of clays led to silicon and calcium depletion and aluminium, iron and potassium enrichment in the coating. In addition, pronounced depletion of magnesium was observed in the slip of the imported wares and the earlier local products, but not of the later local wares; this might account for the low quality of some 3rd century products with respect to the earlier pieces. Examination of SEM images indicated that the thickness of the surface slip reaches up to about 20–25 μm on the imported sherds, but measuresca. 10–20 μm on most of the local products.
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