Ceramic clays are among the most complicated of ceramic systems because of the very intricate relationship between the behavior of minerals during ceramic processing and their modifications during heating. A major challenge is to predict the phase changes in clay ceramics. The aims of this study were to establish reference data of ceramic products that can be formed based on the mineralogical compositions of the local raw materials. These data, in turn, can be compared with archeological ceramics in order to study their origins.
The mineralogical compositions and modifications during firing (550–1100°C under oxidizing conditions) of seven clayey materials sampled from the main clay deposits of northern Morocco were evaluated by X-ray powder diffraction. Two groups of clays were distinguished according to the type of neoformed high-temperature minerals: non-calcareous clays and calcareous clays. For the non-calcareous raw materials, spinel was produced at 950°C. Cristobalite and mullite were formed at temperatures in excess of 1000°C from clays that contain illite, kaolinite, and chlorite. In clays containing vermiculite and large amounts of chlorite, hematite was formed at temperatures in excess of 950°C. Firing of calcareous clays at temperatures >950°C yielded Ca-silicates (diopside, gehlenite and wollastonite), spinel, cristobalite, hematite, and feldspars. Mullite may also form in the calcareous clay products when the carbonate content exceeds 10%.