HZDR GSI MLL Garching  
Applications of nuclear probes and ion beams in archaeology

Unique pieces of art, individual items of handicraft and special components of expensive industrial production do not allow analytical studies accompanied by sampling, visible damages or modifications destroying their functionality. Therefore, commercial analytical techniques in-vacuum are usually not applicable when studying unique objects.

The external proton beam makes it possible to analyse big and delicate products simply on air. Special detectors arranged close to the beam spot on the surface of an interesting detail allow simultaneous und effective measure-ment of signals from different physical processes (PIXE, PIGE, RBS). Short acquisition times and low currents in the beam spot (~ 1 mm2) assure non-destructive analysis even for highly sensitive pieces of art, e.g. water colours or paintings on glass and porcelain.

The "Sky disc of Nebra", a key finding for the European prehistory, was examined at the on-air proton beam of the Forschungszentrum Rossendorf. Archaeologists are greatly interested in the chemical compositions of all the gold applications on the disc made from bronze. More than 30 gold details were studied without any interference of their state of preservation. PIXE provided concentrations of the main elements Au und Ag, Cu (< 1%) and could detect trace elements, e.g. Sn (~ 250 ppm).

Variation of the proton energy may uncover indepth material modifications. Also layer arrangements, e.g. paint layers of oil paintings, can be identified by using this technique. RBS indicates modifications of object surfaces, in particular overlayers of organic materials like residues from cleaning agents or varnish coatings on paintings. The non-destructive characterisation of objects made from glass, pottery or porcelain.

Source: Physics with Ion Beams - Innovative Research in Germany

Isotopes as clock and tracer

Physics with Ion Beams - Innovative Research in Germany

All living organisms contain carbon and some of this carbon is preserved in sediments after their death. Carbon (symbol C) has three naturally occurring isotopes, which are chemically identical, but have different masses; namely the atomic masses 12, 13, and 14. [more]
Application Of PIXE And PIGE Under Incident Variable Ion Beam Angle To Several Fields Of Archaeometry

G.Weber, L.Martinot, D. Strivay, H.P. Garnir

For several years, the specific features of PIXE and PIGE made them very attractive in the field of archaeometry. Among them, the non-destructivity is one of the most appreciated. The possibility to work under atmospheric pressure is also important because of the very different shapes and sizes of the artefacts concerned. [more]
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