Obtaining archaeointensity data from British Neolithic pottery: A feasibility study

Megan L. Allington, Catherine M. Batt, Mimi J. Hill, Andreas Nilsson, Andrew J. Biggin, Nick Card

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a significant lack of geomagnetic field strength (archaeointensity) measurements for many archaeological time periods in the United Kingdom (UK). This not only makes past geomagnetic secular variation difficult to model but also limits the development of archaeointensity dating. This paper presents the first archaeointensity study on UK Neolithic material. In this study, twenty-five sherds of Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery from the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney, UK, some with direct radiocarbon dates, were subjected to a full archaeomagnetic investigation with the aim of increasing the amount of archaeointensity data for the UK. Both thermal Thellier and microwave palaeointensity experiments were used to determine which technique would be most suitable for British Neolithic pottery. Three successful archaeointensity results between 35 and 40μT were obtained using thermal Thellier method, which is consistent with the limited data available within a 15° radius and geomagnetic field model predictions from the same time. We separated the results into four different types with an intention of explaining the behaviours that determine the likelihood of achieving an acceptable archaeointensity estimate. The feasibility of obtaining geomagnetic field strength information during the UK Neolithic from ceramics has been demonstrated and the results provide a solid basis for improving our knowledge of geomagnetic secular variation during archaeological time in Britain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102895
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Geology
  • Archaeology

Free keywords

  • Archaeointensity
  • Geomagnetic secular variation
  • Grooved ware
  • Neolithic


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