Journal article

Microelemental characterisation of Aboriginal Australian natural Fe oxide pigments

RS Popelka-Filcoff, CE Lenehan, E Lombi, E Donner, DL Howard, MD de Jonge, D Paterson, K Walshe, A Pring



This manuscript presents the first comprehensive microcharacterisation of Fe oxide minerals used in Aboriginal Australian mineral pigments. The combination of X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) and light microscopy provides a broad characterisation as well as the ability to spatially match visual observation with elemental composition. A novel method for casting pigment samples in a pattern on a slide was used for consistent elemental mapping. Semiquantitative bulk data was also collected and compared to the microscopic and microelemental data. These analyses demonstrate the ability to document the variability in ochre pigments in Australia, as well as which elements drive the variation wit..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee of Flinders University

Awarded by Australian Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge the South Australian Museum Board and South Australian Museum Aboriginal Advisory Group for support and permission to access and analyse the collections. We also thank the staff at the South Australian Museum Aboriginal Australian Collections for access to the collections. We are also grateful to Mike Smith and other collaborators for access to their collections for analysis. We acknowledge the preparation of the epoxy cast samples by Ms Caroline Watson and Mr Owen Osborne. The staff at Pontifex, Kensington, South Australia are gratefully acknowledged for their careful final preparation of the slides. We acknowledge Professor Paul Kirkbride, Flinders University for the use of the microscope. The project has approval number 4670 from the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee of Flinders University. Funding is gratefully acknowledged from Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Research Fellowship (Popelka-Filcoff), and Australian Research Council Grant #LP0882597 (Lenehan, Pring and Popelka-Filcoff). Part of this research was undertaken on the XFM beam line at the Australian Synchrotron, Victoria, Australia.