Patterns and Process: A Two-day Symposium in Honor of Dr. Edward V. Sayre

Contributed by Charles C. Kolb, Associate Editor


Patterns and Process: A Two-day Symposium in Honor of Dr. Edward V. Sayre was held at the Smithsonian Institution’s Ripley International Center Auditorium in downtown Washington, DC on 21-22 September 1998. The symposium was sponsored by the Smithsonian’s Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE), formerly the Smithsonian’s Conservation Analytical Laboratory (CAL). Approximately 65 colleagues and friends honored Edward Vincent Sayre who for more than five decades has made outstanding contributions at the interface of science and the humanities, that have continued beyond his retirement from the Smithsonian Institution.

Sayre was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1919, and took a B.S. in 1941, his Masters in 1943, and earned his Ph.D in 1949 — all in Chemistry. During World War II, Ed worked on the Manhattan Project (1942-1945), and afterwards was employed as Research Chemist at Eastman Kodak, and taught at the Stevens Institute of Technology, New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts/Conservation Center, and the American University of Cairo. He was Senior Chemist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory before becoming the Director of Research at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in 1974. "Retiring" from the MFA in 1984, he joined the Smithsonian Institution’s Conservation Analytical Laboratory before "retiring" again. As an inspired leader and colleague, he authored or coauthored 110 publications (1949-1985), including the landmark Sayre and Dodson paper, "Neutron activation study of Mediterranean potsherds," published in American Journal of Archaeology 61:35-41 (1957). In 1950 Ed was instrumental in founding the American Chemical Society’s series publications on archaeological chemistry that were derived from the ACS’s History of Chemistry symposia, and he also served as an associate editor of Archaeometry, Journal of Archaeological Sciences, and the Getty’s Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts.

Ed Sayre’s contributions range widely from conservation science to analytical and technical studies of historic and artistic works, and his leadership in the effort to characterize archaeological objects has brought him international acclaim. His accomplishments also include formal and informal teaching that extended his influence well beyond his own meritorious research efforts. He has received international recognition and honors bestowed upon him by his peers in the sciences and in archaeology, and many individuals’ careers have benefitted from his guidance, wise counsel, and honest, inspiring criticism. Ed’s research involved the search for parameters and patterns to characterize ancient materials and their sources, but he left the explanations of the sociocultural processes responsible for the production and distribution of ancient objects to his social science and humanities collaborators — frequently archaeologists and art historians. Therefore, because he emphasized interdisciplinary research at the interface of chemistry and archaeology, his students, co-workers, and friends gathered to pay a tribute to Ed Sayre and his work. The organizers of this Festschrift symposium were Ronald L. Bishop and Lambertus van Zelst (both, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education) and Julian H. Henderson (Department of Anthropology, University of Nottingham).

The symposium opened with a "Welcome" from Lambertus van Zelst (Director, Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education), who summarized Ed’s accomplishments in chemistry and materials science and his international contributions to archaeometry. A presentation entitled "Ed Sayre: So far" by his long-time friend and colleague Frederick R. Matson (Emeritus Research Professor of Ceramic Engineering and Emeritus Research Professor of Archaeology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA), also celebrated Ed’s career. Matson characterized Sayre as a bridge builder between science and archaeology, and as the founder of "The Sayre College of Analytical Knowledge."

Seventeen other papers were scheduled during the two-day symposium. I have summarized the salient points from each of these presentations, which are tabulated in the order in which they were presented.

"Integration of compositional analysis in archaeology" by Ronald L. Bishop, Daniela Triadan (both SCMRE), and M. Nieves Zedeno (Bureau of Applied Anthropological Research, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ) was read by Bishop. In their paper, Bishop summarized the highlights of more than fifty years of Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis, pointing out the interrelationships between science, archaeology, history, and art. Improvements in methodology, integration with archaeological research, an assessment of current techniques, and examples using ceramics were presented. Data from the Point of Pines site and from east central Arizona were shown to elucidate demography and migration patterns. However, Bishop contended that the archaeological use of characterization studies remains limited, and suggested that problems of interdisciplinary collaboration, the inherent complexity of compositional analysis, and a failure to integrate compositional studies within a broader perspective are constraining factors.

A paper entitled "A social history of archaeological materials characterization studies" by Marilyn P. Beaudry-Corbett (Institute of Archaeology, University of California at Los Angeles) reflected on the antecedents and present status of archaeological materials characterization studies. Beaudry-Corbett began her assessment by noting the methods initially employed in conservation science when the material object itself was emphasized rather than its sociocultural parameters. She also discussed the characterization of materials in cultural contexts, beginning with the American Chemical Society symposia in 1962. The writings of Dorothy Thompson, Sayre, Brill, Vandiver, and Shanks and McGuire, among others, were cited to differentiate multidisciplinary from interdisciplinary research. Advancing the multidisciplinary approach of science and archaeology, she stated, lies in the realm of education, and she contended that university faculty must do a better job of integrating the physical sciences with archaeology as a part of the academic preparation of the next generation of archaeologists.

"Crossing boundaries and reframing research agendas," a paper by Rita P. Wright (Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, NY), was not presented due to illness. Wright’s had indicated previously that she would consider ceramics as a primary indicator of culture contact in the Near East and western South Asia, and that she would comment upon the introduction of new analytical techniques (INAA, SEM, and electron microprobe) as tools to assess social and political variables.

The subsequent paper, "Problems and methods: Remembrances of some past source characterization studies" by Philip L. Kohl (Department of Anthropology, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA) was read in Kohl’s absence by M. James Blackman. Kohl reflected on the implications of collaborative research and how mineralogical variations within specimens of steatite and obsidian had archaeological implications. Sumerian sources, transshipment centers, and complex long-distance trade were considered. Shifts in the patterns of obsidian procurement were also noted, as were the successes of INAA and XRF in steatite analyses; he viewed XRF as a "flyswatter" rather than a finite approach.

"More than methodology: INAA and Classic Maya painted ceramics" by Dorie Reents-Budet and Ronald L. Bishop (both SCMRE) was read by the senior author. The Smith and Gifford ceramic type-variety system was reviewed, and the importance of stylistic analysis and chemical characterization were stressed. Several varieties of Maya buff polychrome ceramics dating to the Classic period (A.D. 250-850) were defined on the basis of INAA of pigments and slips. INAA has helped to identify the production locations of several painting styles and assists in the understanding of Classic period political geography, local distribution, and long-distance exchange or commerce. The technique verifies independently those groupings of similar vessels classified on the basis of stylistic attributes and is useful for Mayan scholars in developing models of sociocultural, political, and economic interaction.

"Chemical characterization of Arslantepe sealings" by M. James Blackman (SCMRE) documented an assemblage of 131 Anatolian clay sealings from the Uruk period that had been impressed with stamp seals or cylinder seals were evaluated by INAA. Three separate chemical groupings were defined, potential raw material sources were examined, and these data compared to five types of seal impressions and types of containers being sealed. "Bonded warehousing" was suggested whereby cloth bag cords or ties and ceramic jars with stoppers or cord ties were officially sealed. Clay plasticity was related to the seal types. Analyses showed that at Arslantepe a "clayey marl" was used for the sealings instead of the levigated clays utilized at other Uruk period sites. Therefore, a level of specialization not previously recognized was suggested.

"Modern measures of traditional Hopi pottery: Physical and behavioral sources of variation in Hopi pottery production and exchange, A.D. 1540-1980" by Veletta Canouts (United States National Park Service, Washington, DC) and Ronald L. Bishop (SCMRE) was presented by the former author. Chronological and spatial controls involved in the interpretation of polychrome ceramics from Antelope Mesa were considered. Major historic events (Coronado’s 1540 incursion and missionization beginning in 1629), subsistence changes, transportation, and resource utilization are reflected in ceramic production. The so-called "decline" in ceramic form, decoration, and manufacture were evaluated. Fuel sources (coal and sheep dung) were assessed and firing tests conducted. Spanish and Mexican majolicas were also noted. The scale of ceramic production, shared technologies, and the covariance of technological and design attributes in historic assemblages were compared to Hopi pottery production and exchange.

"The dish-plate tradition at Palenque: Continuity and change" by Robert L. Rands (Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL) and Ronald L. Bishop (SCMRE) was read by Rands. The distributions of selective groups of ceramics from Palenque, Mexico were evaluated in light of the chemical and petrographic analyses of pastes. Different ceramic shape classes (jars, dishes, cylindrical vases, etc.) do not undergo major changes in paste composition at the same time. The research reported emphasizes the dish as a single shape class. Among the variables reviewed were phytoliths, the substantial variations in local clays, lime-saturated water, and diachronic changes in rim form. Local rather than long distance trade is presumed.

"Usulutan decorated pottery and the southern frontier of Mesoamerica" by Frederick W. Lange (University of Colorado Museum, Boulder, CO), Erin L. Sears (George Washington University, Washington, DC), Ronald L. Bishop (SCMRE), and Roland H. Cunningham (SCMRE) was presented by Fred Lange. As part of the Greater Nicoya Ceramic Project, the authors considered the problems associated with local and imported ceramics and the importance of INAA. Distinct ceramic workshops and the "sociotechnological" techniques of production were also reviewed. The results of this research suggest that during the Mesoamerican Preclassic period ceramics fabricated in the Usulutan decorative style were exported to Lower Central America. The technology to manufacture the ware was also apparently transferred. "Imitation" Usulutan ceramic production implied either a motivation to emulate the pottery or the actual migration of potters.

"Data bases for the analysis of European ceramics in American archaeology" by Jacqueline S. Olin, M. James Blackman (both, SCMRE), and Gregory A. Waselkov (Center for Archaeological Studies, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL) was read by Jackie Olin. Spanish and French majolica (tin-glazed ceramics) were compared with illustrations from seventeenth-century paintings from Seville. Specimens from Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic were assessed. Chemical composition was used to identify new ceramic types. Mexico City white pottery, distinctive from Puebla (Mexican) majolica, was delineated. Olin pointed out how ceramic type names can inadvertently imply origins of production and she also commented that Spanish archaeologists have devised their own nomenclature that must be cross-referenced with New World studies. Olin suggested that chemical and typological classifications should be worked out simultaneously. French faience has not been studied adequately, but the preliminary studies of Waselkov’s specimens (n = 114) from Old Mobile (1702-1711) already suggest numerous production loci.

"Microanalysis as a supplement to bulk chemistry in archaeological ceramic provenance investigations" by Hector Neff, James W. Cogswell (both, Missouri University Research Reactor, Columbia, MO), and Louis M. Ross, Jr. (Geological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO) was presented by Hector Neff. Beginning with Sayre and Dodson’s (1957) pioneering analysis, Neff and his colleagues demonstrate how paste preparation practices, compositional changes engendered by use, and/or post-depositional effects are reflected in bulk chemical compositional studies. SEM, EDS, and WDS analyses of examples from Cyprus and Guatemala were used to illustrate the modification of compositional groups, demonstrating how paste preparation and diagenesis can complicate source assessment. Microanalysis can be used to clarify the nature of the bulk chemical groups and contribute toward a better understanding of the archaeological significance of these groups.

"Total variation as a measure of variability in chemical data-sets" by Jaume Buxeda I. Garrigos (ERAUB, Department of Prehistory, Ancient History and Archaeology, University of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain) and Vassilikis Kilikoglou (Laboratory of Archaeometry, Institute of Materials Science, NCSR Demokritos, Attiki, Greece) was read by the latter author. Kilikoglou discussed the European GEOPRO integrated approach to ceramic analysis that involves a consortium of universities (Barcelona, Palermo, Sheffield, Nottingham, and Bonn), Epsilon Software, and the National Centre for Scientific Research (GR). The integration of geochemical and mineralogical techniques was seen as a "new" approach to the study of raw materials and archaeological ceramic provenance. Examples from production and consumption sites were assessed; distinctions were seen with XRF (24, major, minor, and trace elements) and INAA (17 minor and trace elements) — "high variations" in Pb and K in the former, and great variability in Na, Ru, and Ce in the latter. The development of a measure for the quantification of variability in chemical data-sets can provide an initial approach to the monogenic or polygenic nature of the ceramics being studied. The proposed measurement is "total variation" which results from the log-ratio "variation matrix" that was suggested initially by Atchinson (1986, 1992). Eight case studies, four XRF and four INAA, were considered.

"Discriminating power of mathematical techniques used in the Brookhaven Limestone Provenance Project: A test of the reliability of provenance attribution using INAA data and multivariate methodology" by Garman Harbottle and Lore Holmes (both, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the International Center of Medieval Art, New York, NY) was presented by Gar Harbottle. The ongoing Brookhaven Limestone Sculpture Provenance Project seeks to identify Medieval sculptures and the quarries from which they were derived. The research involves the analysis of 20-24 compositional variants for each specimen and the creation of a database (currently numbering nearly two thousand sculptures or quarry samples). The database differentiates provenance (original location or museum or collection) and origin (geological deposit). Trace elements in limestone derive from associated clays and can complicate the analyses. Examples from Caen, France were evaluated and variances in limestone from quarries with the same geological formation were considered. The Brookhaven multivariate programs used in the study were begun under the direction of Ed Sayre.

"Production, distribution, and control of silver: Information provided by elemental composition of ancient silver objects" was authored by Pieter Meyers (Conservation Laboratory, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA). He stated that the characterization of ceramics, clays, and limestone were "easy" when compared to the complications presented by the compositional assessment of silver. Meyers also emphasized that cannot predict provenance from the silver artifact’s composition. Examples of the analysis of specimens from the Byzantine Empire and the Sasanian Empire were presented. Complicating factors include the sources of the silver ore (native Ag or Pb versus AgCl, for example), intentionally added materials (Cu), silver ore impurities (Au and Ir), impurities from copper (As, Sb, Se, Sn, and Zn), and the inhomogeneous distribution of other elements (Na, K, Sc, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Br, and Hg). The criteria necessary for successful provenance studies were considered. Aegean, Anatolian, and Iran/Afghan (Bactrian) sources were differentiated, and that ICP-MS was a possible valuable assessment tool for future research.

"Lead isotope study of Chinese bronzes up to the end of the Shang" by William T. Chase (The Freer Gallery of Art and The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC), Hirao Yoshimitsu (Department of Conservation Science, Tokyo National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, Tokyo, Japan), and Jin Zhengyao (Institute for Research on World Religions, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, China) was presented by Tom Chase. His multimedia presentation (slides, overheads, and dynamic computer graphics) included data and an assessment of Chinese bronzes from ca. 2000 B.C.-A.D. 1050. The earliest bronzes made in China have lead isotope ratios on the upper end of the Pb207/Pb206 scale, whereas later bronzes have ratios at the opposite end of the distribution. Differences in specimens from the same cast and crucible were noted, and a total change in lead source procurement was suggested for the later historic periods. Compositional studies can help to more firmly date some chronologies attributed to various specimens, such as the Sanxingdui (Sichuan Province) and Xingan (Jiangsi Province) specimens. The former site’s dates are controversial but their affinity in lead isotopes with Xingan suggests a chronological contemporaneity with the Middle Anyang period.

"Glass recycling in antiquity? A technological reconstruction from Sardis" by Pamela Vandiver (SCMRE). The compositions of crown glass windows from the thirteenth-century A.D. Basilica E at Sardis in west central Turkey were compared to sixteenth-century glass bracelets. Vandiver noted that the recycling of materials had been common at Sardis (as an example, marble statues burned for limestone). Using SEM, she demonstrated that crown glass was ground, colorants and some calcium added, and dark-colored glass bracelets were fabricated from the recycled window glass. The thermal history was traced and the glass transition temperature was determined as 555 degrees C with a conversion of Alpha to Beta quartz at 573 degrees C. Pam noted that Sayre’s article, "Compositional Categories of Ancient Glass," provided a starting point for her research.

"Ancient glass technology: Advances in cobalt blue and Islamic glass" by Julian Henderson (Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, UK). Henderson noted that Sayre’s work laid the foundation for much subsequent research, and referred to Sayre and Smith’s 1961 article in Science and studies by Brill (nd), Matson (1948), and Caley (1962) in order to place his own research into perspective. The use of plant ash or soda lime, the characteristics of a Syrian glass workshop, glass recycling, the production of lusterware, glass blowing and glass casting, and the manufacture of window glass were reviewed. Henderson presented the results of microprobe analysis and assessed examples cobalt blue glass from Roman, Medieval French, and Islamic contexts. He also determined that colorants were exported from the Islamic world to France.

A cocktail reception was held on Monday evening, 21 September 1998, and I had the honor and the pleasure of the company of Ed and Ginny Sayre, Gar and Naomi Harbottle, and Fred and Margaret Matson as tablemates at the dinner that followed that same evening. On Tuesday evening, the Sayres graciously invited the symposiasts and attendees to an open house at their new home located near Dupont Circle in Washington.

Bert Van Zelst announced that the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education would undertake the publication of a Festschrift volume that would include the oral papers from the Sayre symposium as well as the contributions for former students and colleagues who were unable to attend. Ron Bishop will serve as the organizer of this effort, and a request was made that all contributions be submitted before the end of 1998 so that the papers could be assembled readily and published in 1999.