International Journal of Conservation Science

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Print ISSN:   2067-533X
Online ISSN: 2067-8223
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Current Issue

Volume 7, Special Issue 2, 2016

Selected articles presented at
Congress of the Italian Archeometry Society
Arcavacata di Rende (CS), Italy,
March 9th -11th, 2016

Guest Editors:
Mauro Francesco LA RUSSA, Silvestro Antonio RUFFOLO,
Carmine LUBRITTO, Celestino GRIFA

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M. F. La Russa, S.A. Ruffolo, C. Lubritto, C. Grifa

A Bridge between Art and Science: Past, Present and Future Perspectives

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF ]                  pp. 787-788
The idea of this Special Issue was born during the organization of the Congress of the Italian Archeometry Society (AIAr) held in Arcavacata di Rende (CS, Italy), 9-11 March 2016. The AIAr Association has been established in 1993, it is the main Italian association of scholars and researchers working in the field of scientific applications to Cultural Heritage Assets (

Research articles

V. Renda, M.L. Saladino, S. Caramanna, G. Chirco, A.F. Castello, C. Conti, A. Marco, D. Sali, E. Caponetti

Investigation on a Low Environmental Impact Solvent Mixture Applied to a Wooden Painted Slab

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 789-796
Cleaning is one of the most complex and delicate step in a restoration project, often due to the manufacturing techniques of the artifacts and their advanced state of decay. Eco-friendly solvents can permit to execute the cleaning operations with a reduced health impact for the restorers and for the environment. In this work, the performance of the 1,3-dioxolane/methylal (DIOX-MET) solvent mixture is evaluated over a wooden painted slab that had been covered with a thin layer of a protective varnish, probably during a previous conservation work performed in the Sixties. Removal of this varnish has been considered on behalf of its yellowing degradation process, which caused chromatic changes over the pictorial layer. The study was performed by comparing DIOX-MET performance to that of a traditional solvent mixture. The effectiveness of the cleaning process was followed in situ by using a portable FT-IR total reflectance spectrometer.

Keywords: Eco-friendly solvent; Varnish; Portable Infrared Spectroscopy; Wooden ceiling; Steri.

G. Montana, L. Randazzo, M.R. Cerniglia, C. Aleo Nero, F. Spatafora

Production Technology of Early-hellenistic Lime-based Mortars from a Punic-Roman Residential Area at Palermo (Sicily)

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 797-812
The topic of this study is the mineralogical and petrographic characterization of lime-based mortars of Hellenistic-Roman age (3rd century BCE), collected from a residential area located in the present historical centre of Palermo, near the remains of the Punic-Roman walls. The collected mortars have been analyzed by optical microscopy, X-ray powder diffraction analysis and scanning electron microscopy, coupled with energy-dispersive spectrometry. The aim of the study was the characterization of the mortars as pertaining to their aggregate and binder composition, aggregate size distribution and aggregate/binder ratio, so as to establish the provenance of raw materials and acquire information useful in terms of formulating suitable restoration mortars. The mineralogical and petrographic investigations allowed to recognize four different recipes used for the formulation of the studied mortars. The aggregate is made up of different proportions of alluvial calcareous and siliceous sands or, in some cases, by ‘cocciopesto’ - opus signinum. Aerial lime-based mortars have been attested for the majority of the wall coatings and decorations subject to analysis. Furthermore, an unusual mosaic flooring, manufactured with tesserae obtained from overfired, locally produced limestone scraps, was attested. The sandy aggregate was quarried from the coastal alluvial deposits of the river Oreto, whose estuary is situated in the vicinity of the ancient city walls. The binder was primarily produced by the calcination of locally available limestones, lacking in magnesium carbonate. It presents a satisfactory technological similarity with two roughly coeval manufactures, located in western Sicily and relating to the aggregate, as well as the mortars manufactured for the purpose of decorating the historical palaces of Palermo. This in turn indicates a remarkable continuity regarding the selection of locally available raw materials, an aspect mainly dictated by their qualitative characteristics.

Keywords: Lime-based mortars; Roman-Hellenistic period; Mineralogical and petrographic characterization; Sicily, Palermo.

M.L. Weththimuni, C. Canevari, A. Legnani, M. Licchelli, M. Malagodi, M. Ricca, A. Zeffiro

Experimental Characterization of Oil-colophony Varnishes: A Preliminary Study

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 813-826
Historically, the varnishes had the aim to protect the bowed musical instruments by the external agents and to confer them an aesthetic value. During the 17th and 18th century, in Italy, the bowed instruments, especially violins, were generally covered by a layer of varnish made with several natural materials such resins, oil or hide glue: i.e., instruments by the great violin maker Antonio Stradivari were covered often with a layer of varnish made of linseed oil and colophony in the ratio 3:1, respectively. The main aim of this work was to study the modifications that occur in those kinds of varnishes, after exposing them to some factors of degradation. In order to study the different properties of organic coatings and their suitable compositions, different mixtures of linseed oil and colophony were recreated in the laboratory following an ancient recipe: linseed oil and colophony were mixed together with different ratios (50/50 and 75/25, respectively) and then, they were applied on Maple wood samples and on glass slides for experimental purposes. In order to investigate the different external factors which cause the varnish layer degradation, samples were analyzed by different techniques before and after different ageing processes (thermo-hygrometric cycles, exposition to UV lamp and to acid vapors). Out of strong experimental evaluation, all the results suggested that the composition of 75/25 (oil: colophony) is much better as a varnish for musical instruments.

Keywords: Antonio Stradivari; Varnish; Linseed oil; Colophony; micro FTIR; Hardness; SEM; TGA

N. Ruggieri

An Italian Anti-seismic System of the 18th Century Decay, Failure Modes and Conservation Principles

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 827-838
After the catastrophic earthquake that struck the Calabria region (Italy) in 1783, the Borbone government, among several measures, enacted an anti-seismic code. Such a law provided indications based on the most advanced criteria of the seismic engineering of the Age of Enlightenment, relative to resistant earthquake buildings execution, including masonry walls reinforced with timber frames. That structural organization has emphasized a proper response to seismic actions both orthogonal and parallel ones to the masonry panel. In September 2013, a full-scale replica of this type of wall, has been tested under quasi-static cyclic loads at the CNR IVALSA laboratory, recording limited damage. Furthermore, observations and indications about damage, in particular wall overturning, which buildings constructed according to the System suffered, drawn by means of a large collection of historical photos, is presented and discussed in the paper. The timber included in the compound structure is characterized by a moderate durability due to the potential high humidity generated at the wood-masonry interface, hence favourable conditions for biotic attacks. The contribution devotes its attention on the description of technological and theoretical criteria and principles on which a correct strengthening intervention on historical masonry framed wall has to be founded.

Keywords: Borbone constructive system; Timber framing; Biotic decay; Seismic damage; Conservation principles.

V. Rotolo, G. Barresi, E. Di Carlo, A. Giordano, G. Lombardo, E. Crimi, E. Costa, M. Bruno, F. Palla

Plant Extracts as Green Potential Strategies to Control the Biodeterioration of Cultural Heritage

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 839-846
The biodeterioration of historic-artistic manufacts is related to several biological systems, including fungi and bacteria, whose metabolic activities and vegetative development have a direct consequence on the conservation of cultural assets. Generally, different chemical compounds are utilized as biocides in order to control biodeteriogens growth, but recently the attention has been focused on potential risks of their use towards human health (operators, visitors) and the environment. In order to develop alternative methods, various natural products have been tested, particularly to control the colonization by fungi and bacteria. In this study, antimicrobial activity of three different plant products, Tea tree essential oil, Calamintha nepeta and Allium sativum L. extracts, has been evaluated against Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus luteus, Penicillium chrysogenum and Aspergillus spp. (previously isolated from colonized artworks) through three different in vitro antimicrobial assays (micro-dilution in microtiter plates, well plates diffusion and agar disc diffusion method). The bioassays show a different microbial susceptibility to plant extracts, establishing for each bacteria and fungi the Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) and defining the diameter of the growth inhibition area. This result supports the data reported in literature and shows an important potential suggestion for the possible use in the control of biodeterioration of cultural heritage, safe both for human health and environment.

Keywords: Biodeteriogens; Antimicrobial activity; Plant products; Antimicrobial assays; Cultural assets

C. Pelosi, G. Agresti, P. Holmes, A. Ervas, S. De Angeli, U. Santamaria

An X-ray Fluorescence Investigation of Ancient Roman Musical Instruments and Replica Production under the Aegis of the European Music Archaeological Project

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 847-856
This paper reports on the investigation of a number of metal musical instruments, from the Roman period, by combining non-invasive portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and technical analysis. The study is part of the European project EMAP (European Music Archaeology Project, 2013-2018) which aims to highlight Europe’s ancient cultural roots from variety of perspectives, including: musical, scientific and “sensorial”. In particular, the analysis and technical details of some Roman cornua stored in the Naples museum will be presented. The cornua under investigation came originally from excavations carried out in Pompeii. The characterization of the metal alloy and of the various soldering materials was performed utilising X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy in a totally non-invasive mode by means of portable no-contact equipment. This choice of technique resulted from the impossibility of transporting the instruments out of the museum for further investigation and also of taking samples for laboratory analysis. The alloys utilised in the cornua from Pompeii are made up of copper and tin, with a tin content of around 1%. Solders are made from copper, lead and zinc (about 4-5%). Mouthpiece, receivers when present, exhibited high counts of zinc. The use of a brass alloy for solders identifies a sophisticated technological ability which was employed when creating the musical instruments.

Keywords: Roman cornua; Metal alloy; Music archaeology, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy

M. Caroselli, G. Cavallo, A. Felici, L. Aliverti, S. Luppichini, G. Jean, G. Nicoli

Characterisation of the Stucco Decorations at the “Sacro Monte Di Ossuccio” (16th-17th Century), Como, Italy

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 857-870
The “Sacro Monte di Ossuccio” (Como) was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2003. The main Sanctuary was built from 1537 and consecrated in 1699. The nave is adorned with stucco attributed to Giovanni Battista Muttoni, while documentary evidence indicates that the stucco work of the inner façade was made by Agostino Silva (1628-1706). This study is part of a project that investigates the executive techniques of the plasterers from Ticino integrating the results of archival research, artistic practice and scientific investigations. In particular, the scientific investigations on 15 stucco samples have included Polarized Light Microscopy (PLM), Scanning Electron Microscope coupled with microanalysis (SEM-EDS) and Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). The stuccoes of the Sanctuary are characterised by different executive techniques and different types of mortar mixtures: in the stuccoes attributed to Muttoni, in most cases a thick (1-1,5 cm) finishing layer made of Mg-rich lime and calcite crystals can be observed, while in others a very thin one (200 micron) composed of a weakly hydraulic lime, without aggregates. In the composition of the angels done by Agostino Silva there is gypsum, added in the arriccio layer and present in traces in the finishing one.

Keywords: Stucco decoration; PLM; Artistic technique; Scientific analysis; Agostino Silva.

M. Clausi, L.L. Magnani, R. Occhipinti, M.P. Riccardi, M. Zema, S.C. Tarantino

Interaction of Metakaolin-based Geopolymers with Natural and Artificial Stones and Implications on Their Use in Cultural Heritage

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 871-884
Alkali activated materials, and geopolymers in particular, have proven to be a valid alternative to traditional binders, due to their significant mechanical performances, durability and environmental advantages. The present paper describes the results of a research project, initiated in order to explore the potentiality and suitability of metakaolin-based geopolymers within the domain of cultural heritage. SEM-EDS analyses were utilized in order to evaluate the interaction of geopolymers with natural and artificial stones by assessing the variations at the boundaries due to differences in the minero-petrographic and chemical compositions of natural and artificial stones. Three ornamental stones widely used in the historic Italian architecture were selected: Pietra Serena (sandstone), Pietra di Angera (dolostone) and Pietra di Noto (limestone). Widespread construction materials, such as concrete and brick were also included in the study. Furthermore, the interaction between geopolymers and historic elements, such as decorative stones and/or mortars, were also studied, in order to evaluate a possible application of these materials within the realm of restoration, as well as for the conservation of historic manufactures. The results revealed that adhesion appears to be satisfactory in the case of all analyzed materials. Silicoaluminate phases partially dissolve and increase the availability of Si and Al within the interface, resulting in a strongly interlinked whole, whereas carbonate phases and rocks supply Ca, which changes the local composition of the binder

Keywords: Geopolymers; Metakaolin; Cultural heritage; Ornamental stones; Construction materials; Microstructure; Interaction zone.

C. Grifa, S. Barba, F. Fiorillo, C. Germinario, F. Izzo, M. Mercurio, D. Musmeci, A. Potrandolfo, A. Santoriello, P. Toro, A. Langella

The Domus of Octavius Quartio in Pompeii: Damage Diagnosis of the Masonries and Frescoed Surfaces

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 885-900
Domus of Octavius Quartio occupies the entire insula 2 of Region II in Pompeii, representing one of the most important village of this archaeological site. An interdisciplinary approach has been adopted in order to plan conservative, preventive and restoration actions aimed at the requalification of Pompeii within the frame of “Grande Progetto Pompei” program. 3D Laser scanner surveys and damage diagnosis following Fitzner’s method were carried out. The identification and description of weathering forms was carried out using ICOMOS-ISCS and NorMaL 1/88 recommendations, readapted and reinterpreted also for frescoes. Ten different weathering forms were identified; the frescoed room and the fountain are mainly affected by fissures, convex deformations, lacuna, efflorescence, discoloration, moist areas and patinas; the surrounding wall shows back weathering due to the disaggregation of bedding mortars; moreover the blocks are interested by rounding and biological colonization (lichens). Mapping the areal distribution of weathering forms and defining the damage categories, allowed an estimation of the linear and progressive damage index. Actually, a good conservation state of frescoed room (1.5 – 2.0) and fountain (0.7 – 1.2) was identified; a definitely worse conservation state, instead, was observed in the external wall, where the highest progressive damage index value (3) was measured.

Keywords: Pompeii; Octavio Quartio domus; Damage; Fitzner’s method; Weathering forms; Mortars; Travertine.

V. Crupi, Z. Kasztovszky, F. Khalilli, M.F. La Russa, A. Macchia, D. Majolino, B. Rossi, N. Rovella, S.A. Ruffolo, V. Venuti

Evaluation of Complementary Methodologies Applied to a Preliminary Archaeometric Study of Glazed Pottery from Agsu (Azerbaijan)

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 901-912
Agsu town is an Azerbaijan's recently excavated, important archaeological site, considered a crossroads of commercial routes since the ancient times between China, Asia Minor and Europe. For this reason, the area is rich in different typologies of artifacts with various provenances such as stone objects, glazed pottery and coins. The excavations indicated the presence of workshops specialized in various spheres of metallurgy, as well as of dye-works. A non-invasive or, at least, micro-destructive multi-technique approach was applied for the characterization of eight archaeological pottery fragments taken from Agsu Site (Azerbaijan) dated back XIX century A.D.. At different spatial scales, a combination of complementary optical microscopy (OM), scanning electron microscopy – energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and prompt gamma activation analysis (PGAA) was applied. The proposed study is aimed at addressing issues such as the characterization of raw materials, the determination of manufacturing, the reconstruction of the firing technology, the identification of the pigments used for decoration and the formulation of a first hypothesis about provenance of the artifacts considered the scarce studies about it in literature.

Keywords: Pottery; Azerbaijan; SEM-EDS; XRD; PGAA; technology

M.C. Tomassetti, G. Lucarini, M.A. Hamdan, A. Macchia, G. Mutri, B.E. Barich

Preservation and Restoration of the Wadi Sura Caves in the Framework of the “Gilf Kebir National Park”, Egypt

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 913-934
In 2010 the Italian-Egyptian Environmental Cooperation launched a safeguarding project for the preservation of the caves with prehistoric rock art located in the Gilf Kebir plateau in southwestern Egypt. The project was part of the cooperation program developed to establish the Egyptian Gilf Kebir National Park (GKNP) protected area. Given their bad state of preservation, the Italian conservation project focused on the Caves of Swimmers and Archers, located along the Wadi Sura. Although only very few studies of this kind have been carried out in the Saharan region, our work in the Gilf Kebir can be considered a pilot study, the results of which should be evaluated in the long term. Results obtained to date and reported in this paper provide analytical petrographic studies of the bedrock, a complete photographic and geodetic survey of the two sites, data from climate monitoring, along with a preliminary consolidation of some of the most at-risk areas of the two caves. Finally, laboratory experimentation led us to select the most suitable materials for the consolidation of the rock, shifting in the direction of nano-technology instead of ethyl silicate use because of the longer cross-linking process of the latter in hyper-arid environments; the use of the latter can in fact result in extremely long and expensive field seasons. These results will be valuable for the continuation and extension of the project, which is currently suspended due to safety concerns in the region.

Keywords: Saharan rock art; Climatic weathering; Sandstone consolidation; Petrographic analysis; Porosimetric analysis; Laboratory experimentation on nano-silica.

A. Re, A. Lo Giudice, M. Nervo, P. Buscaglia, P. Luciani, M. Borla, C. Greco

The Importance of Tomography Studying Wooden Artefacts: A Comparison with Radiography in the Case of a Coffin Lid from Ancient Egypt

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 935-944
X-ray radiography is nowadays widely employed in the Cultural Heritage field and can give many and useful information on different topics related to artworks and archaeological finds. On the other hand, tomography is less diffused and more time-consuming and expensive, but overcomes the main limitation of radiography, that is the projection of the entire volume on a plane, losing information about the third dimension. This is especially true when radiography is applied to objects with complex geometry or different materials: in these cases, the real distribution of pieces and materials is sometimes impossible to understand and a tomography is necessary. In this paper, we will show the case study of the Taiefmutmut’s coffin lid, a woman from Ancient Egypt, analysed with both radiography and tomography. This case is particularly significant because, even if the object is relatively simple both for geometry and materials, the results obtained with the two techniques are noticeably different. In particular, the tomography gives a larger amount of information, both on the building technique, on the state of conservation and on previous restorations.

Keywords: Digital radiography; X-ray tomography; Coffin; Ancient Egypt; Restoration; Preservation; Cultural heritage.

F. Pique’, M. Caroselli, C.L. Koch Dandolo, S. Luppichini, M. Santella

Multitechnical Approach for the Characterization of the Stratigraphy of Blue Areas in the Wall Paintings in the Chapel 11 at the “Sacro Monte Di Varallo”, Italy

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 945-954
Chapel n. 11(1591) represents ‘the Massacre of the innocents’ and is one of the most dramatic of the 45 chapels at the UNESCO World Heritage site of the “Sacro Monte di Varallo” (Vercelli, Italy). The University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) in collaboration with “Ente Sacri Monti” is carrying out several investigations to acquire the necessary knowledge about original, added and degradation materials present on the wall paintings of chapel 11, to develop a conservation strategy and a restoration plan. Starting from on site visual examination, the analytical investigation campaign included non-invasive investigations (portable microscope, technical photography and portable X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy) and laboratory analyses on samples (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, observations by polarized optical microscope and Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy). Selected datasets resulted from the investigation on plaster, blue polychrome and on repainting are presented in this paper.

Keywords: Wall painting; Technical photography; FTIR; XRF; SEM-EDS; FTIR; Varallo; IR, Vis and UV reflectography; Smalt; Azurite

N. Rovella, V. Comite, M. Ricca

Technological Investigation of Red- and Black-Figured Pottery of Unknown Provenance

[ Abstract ]
[ Full Article - PDF]                  pp. 955-964
This contribution is concerned with the archaeometric study of seven red- and black-figured potteries, kindly provided by the Carabinieri Corps for Protection of Cultural Heritage, Cosenza Unit (Calabria, Italy). The study was aimed to establish the authenticity of the archaeological artifacts and for this purpose an analytical approach, based on minero-petrographic and geochemical investigations, was applied. Petrographic analysis (OM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) coupled with EDS microanalysis and X-ray diffraction (XRD) studies were carried out with the aim of identifying technological features, microstructure and to obtain information on the technological features of each sample. Finally, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) was used to detect possible surface coatings.

Keywords: Archaeological potteries; red- and black-figured; archaeometry; authenticity

Publication date: 01.11.2016

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