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The W. A. McDonald Laboratory of Petrography, thanks to the vision and financial support of Dr. Jennifer Moody, was founded in the summer of 2002. The laboratory is equipped with a cut-off and trim saw, an impregnation machine, and a lapping unit for the manufacture of ceramic thin sections. The thin sections are studied under a Leica polarizing microscope and microphotographs are provided by a Kodak digital camera coupled to the microscope.

McDonald Petrography Laboratory
Maria Dikomitou, a petrography intern, Eleni Nodarou and Matina Tzari in the W.A. McDonald Petrography Laboratory


MicroscopeThe projects undertaken by the W. A. McDonald Petrography Laboratory concentrate on the island of Crete, and the ceramic material analyzed extends chronologically from earliest prehistory to historic times. The individual projects are designed according to the archaeological questions raised by the study of the pottery in order to achieve optimum representation of vessel shapes and wares. A good understanding of the pottery prior to sampling is essential because the typology, context, and date of material all factor into the results of petrographic analysis.

Phyllite fabric
Phyllite fabric (north coast of east Crete)


Sites sampled for petrographic analysis
Sites sampled for petrographic analysis
1) Chamalevri, 2) Eleutherna, 3) Kommos, 4) Zominthos, 5) Philioremos Gonies, 6) Kastrokephala, 7) Alonaki/Juktas, 8) Knossos, 9) Gournes, 10) Pyrgos, 11) Skoteino Cave, 12) Hagios Charalambos , 13) Karphi, 14) Symi Viannou, 15) Chrysokamino, 16) Pseira, 17) Mochlos, 18) Petras, 19) Kephala Petras, 20) Trypetos, 21) Hagia Photia, 22) Zakros Karoumes, 23) Zakros-Choiromandres

Through these individual projects, the W. A. McDonald Laboratory aims to establish a diverse collection of Cretan fabrics that extend from the western to the eastern ends of the island and from the Neolithic to modern times. In this way, scholars will be able to examine issues such as clay recipes and their continuity through time, as well as the distribution of ceramic products across the island. The Laboratory’s collection of ceramic thin sections is open to researchers interested in fabric studies and can be consulted.

Serpentinite tempered fabric
Serpentinite tempered fabric (south coast)

Since 2003, the W. A. McDonald Laboratory has established collaborations with all of the Ministry of Culture’s Departments of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities on Crete and also with institutions practicing other types of analysis such as the National Centre of Scientific Research (NCSR) Demokritos and the Department of Geology at the University of Patras in order to provide a more integrated approach to the ceramic material studied.

Finally, the Institute of Aegean Prehistory has established a two-month internship available every year to graduate students in archaeology, geology, and related studies who are interested in acquiring experience in ceramics petrography. For terms and conditions, see:

Recent Bibliography

Nodarou, E. 2011. Pottery production distribution and consumption in Early Minoan West Crete: an analytical perspective. BAR-IS 2210.

Nodarou, E. 2012. Pottery fabrics and recipes in the Final Neolithic and Early Minoan I period: the analytical evidence from the settlement and the rock shelter of Kephala Petras, in M. Tsipopoulou (ed.), Petras, Siteia: 25 years of excavations and studies: 81-88. Monographs of the Danish Institute at Athens 16.

Ben-Shlomo, D., E. Nodarou and J. B. Rutter 2011 Transport stirrup jars from the southern Levant: new light on Minoan trade in the East Mediterranean, American Journal of Archaeology 115.3: 329-53.

Nodarou, E. 2010. Chapter 1: Petrographic analysis of the LM III pottery assemblage, in R.A.K. Smith Mochlos ΙΙΒ. Period IV. The Mycenaean Settlement and Cemetery. The pottery: 3-14 & 139-153. INSTAP Academic Press.

Nodarou, E., C. Frederick and A. Hein 2008. Another (mud)brick in the wall: scientific analysis of Bronze Age earthen construction materials from three sites in East Crete. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 2997-3015.

Nodarou, E. 2007. Exploring Patterns of Intra Regional Pottery Distribution in Late Minoan IIIA-B East Crete: The Evidence from the Petrographic Analysis of Three Ceramic Assemblages, in C.Y. Waksman, ed., Archaeometric and Archaeological Approaches to Ceramics: Papers presented at EMAC ’05, 8th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics, Lyon, 2005 (BAR-IS 1691): 75-83.

For more information regarding the W. A. McDonald Laboratory of Petrography, please contact Dr. Eleni Nodarou (

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