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Chapter 1

Application of Instrumental Methods

in the Analysis of Historic, Artistic and Archaeological Objects

1.1 Importance of Scientific Examination for Archaeometry, Conservation and Restoration

Preservation of cultural goods is an important and rewarding task of modern soci- eties. They are a vital source of inspiration and reflect the culture and history of the past and present. This valuable asset is the basis for future cultures and therefore, is one of the main legacies to be passed on to future generations. For this purpose, conservators, curators, art historians, and scientists combine their efforts, making it now a pluridisciplinary activity.

Cultural goods are particularly rich and diverse, as they are comprised of a great variety of materials (and often made from combinations thereof), and they are of vastly different sizes ranging from archaeological or historical sites, to monuments, and to objects of fine craft or art. Although their significance stems from the trans- mitted historical, cultural, or figurative messages, their conservation and perpetu- ation in time depends on their materials. The Science of Conservation has been developed for this reason, and is devoted to the scientific study of the objects and the procedures that assure the safeguarding of cultural goods.

Application of the physical and chemical sciences to tackle the problems and questions of archaeology, history, and the conservation of heritage dates back to the 18th century. The first specialized laboratory dedicated to this type of work was established in 1888: the Chemisches Labor der Ko ̈niglichen Museen zu Berlin (Chemical Laboratory of the Royal Museums of Berlin, now the Rathgen- Forschungslabor). This laboratory was set up based on the idea that the scientific approach to cultural goods is always ancillary to the approach made by the art his- torian and the conservator. Currently, scientific disciplines play an essential role in the material characterization of art objects (Scheme 1.1). For example, the dating of archaeological remains is based on instrumental techniques. Characterization of the artistic techniques and technologies of production from the analytical data related to the chemical composition and morphology of the object often allows a clear ascrip- tion of the studied object to a geographical region, as well as an elucidation of the date of manufacture. Authentication is sometimes carried out based on analytical data (i.e., identification of a pigment used in a certain historic period or recognition

A. Dome ́nech-Carbo ́ et al., Electrochemical Methods in Archaeometry, Conservation 1 and Restoration, Monographs in Electrochemistry,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-540-92868-3 1, ⃝c Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

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