Micro-Raman spectroscopy is applied for the first time to identify mineralogical characteristics of ceramic bodies and red coatings on decorative cord-marked pottery (ca 2600–1700 B.C.) from an archeological site in northern Taiwan. X-ray diffraction and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry were used as complementary techniques. The combined results of mineralogical and elemental composition suggest that the pottery items were produced from illitic clays and fired to a temperature less than 800 °C under oxidizing conditions. The slight discrepancy in composition between the red coatings and ceramic bodies possibly indicates a somewhat different source of raw materials and/or clay refining processes used by ancient potters. Additionally, feldspar, hornblende, and pyroxenes detected in the samples are closely related to the main compositions of nearby volcanic rocks, implying that the raw materials could have come from a local source. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.