Status and Prospects for Quasi-Non-Destructive Analysis of Ancient Artefacts via LA–ICP–MS

Laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA–ICP–MS)
combines a low degree of invasiveness (termed quasi-non-destructive) with measurements of concentrations of elements and/or their isotopic compositions in artefacts. The technique has risen to prominence in archaeometric research. Successful applications include the use of trace elements to document the trade of raw glass from Egypt and Mesopotamia to Mycenaean Greece during the Late Bronze Age and the use of Pb isotope ratios to show that a common source of metal was used to mint bronze coins in an ancient Roman city on the Iberian Peninsula during the reigns of Emperors Augustus to Claudius. Prospects for using LA–ICP–MS for elemental mapping (imaging) and for extending the application of isotopic tracing for archaeometry are evaluated.

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