Chemical Science for the Safeguard of Cultural Heritage
Maria Perla Colombini Research Group

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Il profumo dei reperti racconta la storia dell’Antico Egitto

Il profumo dei reperti racconta la storia dell’Antico Egitto

In questi giorni la tomba di Kha e Merit del Museo Egizio è stata protagonista di un’indagine innovativa, mai eseguita prima d’ora in un museo: la ricerca del “profumo” di...

Summer School 2019

Summer School 2019

Summer School 2-6 September 2019 Diagnosis in Heritage Science: 2. Focus on organic materials in archaeology The Summer School is designed to train graduated students, in particular PhD students, with...

The Group of Analytical Chemistry for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage carries out researches in the field of the application of analytical chemistry for gaining knowledge and safeguarding the cultural heritage. In the context of archaeometry and conservation science, the research group develops and implements analytical methods based on chromatography, spectroscopy and mass spectrometry for the characterisation of organic materials collected from archaeological objects and artworks.

In particular, the research group applies analytical methods. Since antiquity, a variety of natural organic substances such as vegetable resins, fats and oils, waxes, plant gums, proteinaceous materials, bitumen and organic dyes have been used as adhesives, coating and sealing agents, painting and colouring materials, varnishes, and also as ingredients for cosmetics, medicines, and preparations for ritual use such as mummification balms.

The chemical characterisation of artistic and archaeological materials, the identification of their constituents, and of the residues contained in ancient vessels is very valuable in terms of what it reveals about the artistic and manufacturing techniques of the past.

It can tell us about the degree of technological advancement of ancient societies, about their diet, trade, rituals and everyday activities. In addition, knowing the chemical composition of archaeological and art objects enables us to assess the state of conservation and on-going degradation processes, to set up exhibition and storage conditions, and to plan conservation.

Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS), pyrolysis/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py/GC/MS), high performance liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (HPLC/MS) and direct mass spectrometric techniques such as direct exposure–mass spectrometry (DE-MS) are adopted, thanks to their capacity to obtain detailed information on complex molecular mixtures. In addition, the development of methods for sample preparation, the use of complementary techniques such as Fourier transform infrared spectrometry (FTIR) and of multivariate statistical methods for data evaluation play an important role in the research. The groups participates in interdisciplinary projects aimed at the conservation or at the diagnosis of artworks, that are often at the boundary between chemistry, archaeology, conservation and material science, and collaborates with conservation institutions, museums, archaeologists, conservators and restorers.

SCIence for Cultural Heritage
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Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry
Via Giuseppe Moruzzi, 13
56124 - Pisa, Italy

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