Danger! High Voltage! The Application of Handheld X-ray Fluorescence (HH-XRF) to Experimental Glass, Pitfalls and Potentials

Rebecca Scott, D. Braekmans, D Brems, P. Degryse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Handheld X-ray Fluorescence (HH-XRF) is growing in
terms of its popularity for use in archaeological studies. It
has been regularly used for studying soils, obsidians and
metals, but the extent to which it can be applied to other,
more heterogeneous archaeological materials, for example,
glass and ceramics, is still under debate. Some of the
concerns which need to be addressed include: how reliable
are the studies that are undertaken using this technique?
And, to what extent is a trained ‘expert’ needed to conduct
and interpret the analysis? The influence of the size, shape
and thickness of an object on the obtained analytical data
can pose some significant problems. The appropriate
instrumental parameters of the HH-XRF including analysis
time, current and voltage settings vary between objects and
material types. The attenuation properties and resultant
critical depths also vary and require some knowledge of the
system before analysis. These issues all have an impact on
the qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative analyses
that can be achieved with the use of this technique.

HH-XRF has huge potential for in-situ archaeometrical
analyses, but the potential pitfalls for the unwary user can be
many and great. This paper seeks to highlight some of the
dangers associated with a ‘point and shoot’ technique by
taking one material, an experimental glass, and determining
the minimum basic parameters needed for a useful analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication39th International Symposium on Archaeometry
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event39th International Symposium for Archaeometry - Leuven, Belgium
Duration: 28 May 20121 Jun 2012


Conference39th International Symposium for Archaeometry
Abbreviated titleISA 2012


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