The portable XRF revolution: elemental analysis for all?

Kate Welham, Paul Cheetham, Derek Pitman, Rebecca Cannell


The recent surge of popularity in the use of portable XRF in archaeology has been felt across all spheres of the discipline. Applications of the technique are now wide and varied, and the affordability, flexibility, and non-destructive nature of this type of elemental analysis, together with easy to use software and internal calibration parameters have created an instrument that many new users are keen to embrace. Although portable XRF is being applied in increasingly novel and inventive ways, a commonality is the production of large datasets that must be statically treated and analysed. It is often at this point where interpretation begins and the many potential problems of integrating elemental data with archaeological research questions occur.
This session invites contributions from all portable XRF users to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the technique, the methods they have used, and the practical and technical opportunities and restrictions. We are keen to examine the different stages of a project where portable XRF can be applied, whether as a prospection method, to screen through stratigraphical layers on a site, or within the lab on artefacts with extensive sample processing. A particular focus will be the challenges within the analysis, data processing and interpretation stages. The aim is to cover a broad range of material types, in-situ and ex-situ analysis, and the wide range of archaeological research questions the instrument can help address. We hope to create a productive, inclusive discussion between both new and experienced users from all backgrounds.