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Archaeological Analysis

aa3Colours and painted decoration were an important aspect of material culture in the past. Using cutting edge scientific and technological means STARC, in association with C2RMF (Louvre) is accessing information regarding the substances and technical procedures used to create colours in Antiquity in Cyprus and the surrounding region.

Following a request from the Department of Antiquities Cyprus, STARC analysed the pigments, tints and colorants used in the finely painted Larnaca-Liperti sarcophagi of high artistic quality. Non-invasive characterizations (X-Ray Fluorescence; multispectral analyses [infrared, ultraviolet light, false colour]), and analyses of several micro-samples (micro-Raman spectroscopy; scanning electron microscopy; elemental analyses on the accelerator system AGLAE of C2RMF at the Louvre, France) identified the different pigments used. Further analyses were undertaken to investigate the possible origin of the marble used, as well as the human remains discovered within the sarcophagi.

aa2The research was supported partially by the RPF Polychromy project (STARC). This research effort illustrates the need to bring analytical research instrumentation to the archaeological objects (rather than bringing the objects to the laboratory, a near impossibility in the case of these heavy marble sarcophagi with delicate decoration) – a need that will be met by the STAR-LAB (mobile laboratory being developed at STARC and funded by the RPF. The STAR-LAB is devoted to on-site and in-museum digital data acquisition, geophysics, data processing and archaeometry (natural and material science applications to archaeology), in order to research, document, conserve and preserve cultural heritage in Cyprus.

The origin of the white marbles used in the sarcophagi was investigated through petrographic observation of thin sections examined by Optical Microscopy, complemented by PIXE analysis (Proton Induced X-ray Emission). The results were published in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities (Lorentz et al. 2011), and disseminated also during the International Congress on Archaeological Sciences in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East (ICASEMNE, Paphos, April 2010) organized by STARC of The Cyprus Institute.

Related Projects: POLYCHROMY (RPF), STAR-LAB (RPF)
CyI People: K. O. Lorentz, M. Menu, F. Niccolucci, D. Pitzalis
Key Partners: C2RMF (France); Cyprus Department of Antiquities
Selected Publications: Lorentz, K.O., S. Pages-Camagna, Y. Coquinot and D. Pitzalis 2011 ‘Natural and material sciences applied to the analysis of the Larnaca-Liperti Tomb 128 painted sarcophagi and human remains’ in P. Flourentzos Two Exceptional Sarcophagi from Larnaca, Nicosia: Department of Antiquities, Cyprus, pp. 45-119.
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