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Durham University

Department of Archaeology

Staff

Publication details for Professor Mike Church

Peters, C, Thompson, R, Harrison, A & Church, M J (2002). Low temperature magnetic characterisation of fire ash residues. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 27(31): 1355-1361.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Fire ash is ideally suited to mineral magnetic studies. Both modern (generated by controlled burning experiments) and archaeological ash deposits have been studied, with the aim of identifying and quantifying fuel types used in prehistory. Low temperature magnetic measurements were carried out on the ash samples using an MPMS2 SQUID magnetometer. The low temperature
thermo-remanence cooling curves of the modern ash display differences between fuel sources. Wood and well-humified peat ash display an increase in remanence with cooling probably related to a high superparamagnetic component, consistent with room temperature frequency dependent susceptibilities of over 7%. In comparison fibrous-upper peat and peat turf display an unusual
decrease in remanence, possibly due to an isotropic point of grains larger than superparamagnetic in size. The differences have been successfully utilised in unmixing calculations to quantify fuel components within four archaeological deposits from the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland.