This contribution examines the melting behaviour of feldspar clasts in 9th century CE Sue ware from the Nakadake Sanroku kiln site, Kagoshima prefecture (Kyūshū), southern Japan. Sue ware is stoneware of typical grey to brownish-grey appearance fired at high temperature; its surfaces may be untreated or covered by natural ash glaze. Firing was performed in sloping single-chamber tunnel kilns at reducing conditions and temperatures exceeding 1000 °C. Set in a vitrified matrix (glass, mullite, minor spinel and cristobalite), quartz and feldspar constitute ubiquitous clast components. The varying degree of vitrification (15–60 wt.% glass phase) and reversely correlated modal proportions of quartz and feldspar clasts likely reflect superposed effects of varying exposure time to peak-firing temperature and temperature gradients in the kilns.
Sodic plagioclase clasts (An18–25) melted congruently, producing sieve-textured domains of vitreous phase and residual calcic plagioclase, while calcic plagioclase clasts (An35–63) were dissolved incongruently by reaction with matrix melt, generating narrow vitreous rims embedding residual calcic plagioclase laths at the immediate contact with the host plagioclase and acicular mullite towards the ceramic matrix. Elevated Fe, Mg, and K contents of the melt phase with development of concentration gradients indicate bi-directional diffusive element transfer between reaction domains and the ceramic matrix. Melting phenomena of alkali feldspar clasts, depending on the intensity of vitrification, range from few micrometre-thin vitreous margins to completely melted blistered clasts. With advanced melting, pronounced chemical zonations are developed with continuous gradation from potassic core compositions (Or90–80Ab10–20An<1) to sodic compositions (Or68–51Ab30–46An2–3) in domains adjoining the vitreous domain. The chemically homogeneous vitreous phase retains the 1:3 Al:Si-stoichiometry of the feldspar framework, whereas K and Na are depleted and Ca, Fe and Mg enriched relative to the precursor feldspar. These findings demonstrate that (1) alkali feldspar clasts did not melt through eutectic reaction with silica/quartz nor via the incongruent reaction K-feldspar → leucite + liquid; (2) melting was initiated by diffusive K-Na exchange with the matrix, thereby shifting the pristine clast compositions towards the thermal minimum (Or40Ab60) in the Ab-Or-An ternary system; (3) while sodic marginal domains (Or68–51Ab30–46An2–3) melted congruently, residual core domains (Or75–66Ab24–33An1) melted incongruently producing micrometre-scale intergrowths of skeletal plagioclase and melt; (4) melting involved diffusive cation exchange through a quasi-stationary aluminosilicate framework, viz. influx of Ca + Fe + Mg to the feldspar melt domains and concomitant release of the fluxing components K + Na to the ceramic matrix. The evaluation of feldspar melting phenomena suggests firing temperatures did not exceed ca. 1150 °C.