Some Updated Quality Concerns on Non-Destructive Geochemical Analysis with XRF

Non-destructive geochemical analysis with portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers is probably one of the most controversially discussed methodologies, when valid quantitative, inter-instrument and inter-laboratory comparable results are requested by the nature of the study subject. This is particularly evident in compositional analysis of ancient pottery for provenance allocation. Data acquisitions with portable XRF analysers is broadly discredited as point & shoot approach, and there is indeed justified concern about a simplistic reading and trusting of concentration figures generated by the preinstalled calibration software, which instrument manufacturers provide for the convenience of the user. Professional calibration and validation concepts are discussed which overcome this critique and allow scholars to exploit the full potential of non-destructive analysis, namely the reliable large scale, high-throughput generation of compositional data for archaeological settlement analysis or geochemical field studies. Since it is unrealistic that from one day to the other, and despite the substantial critique, a majority of interested scholars will develop into professionally trained analysts, a fit for purpose approach to data quality is suggested, which may bring such results into accordance with the accepted rules of the applied sciences.

Author(s): Detlef Wilke

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