Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Applied Archaeology



First Reader/Committee Chair

Matthew Des Lauriers


This research evaluates the extent of ceramic shrinkage using a natural clay source that was locally available and known to be used by native populations in the American Southwest. The experiment took into account variables of temper mixture and firing temperature to assess the extent and potential need for shrinkage calibration in archaeological biometric research (specifically fingerprints). An experimental design was employed to test shrinkage rates while accounting for natural temper materials found frequently in the archaeological record including sand, grog, and quartz. The experiment evaluated whether shrinkage rates may have skewed data collected in previous studies regarding sex and age determination from fingerprints left in ceramic artifacts, that can be corrected for with proper calibration protocols. The purpose of this experiment was to show whether ceramic shrinkage is variable and dependent on temper, temperature, and clay and if further research is necessary to determine specific shrinkage rates before fingerprint data obtained from fired clay can be used to determine probabilities of age and sex. The results of the experiment showed significant shrinkage rates ranging between 10.4–25.4% depending on temper and temperature. These values greatly exceed the standardized rate of shrinkage currently used for calibrating biometric research in archaeology. The experiment demonstrates that similar experimentation is required to calibrate data relative to the unique clay source, temper, and firing temper that the biometric data is collected from.