Archaeological Baltic amber: degradation mechanisms and conservation measures

Pastorelli, Gianluca (2009) Archaeological Baltic amber: degradation mechanisms and conservation measures, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Science for Conservation (EPISCON), 22 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/2259.
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The aim of this project was to achieve a deep understanding of the mechanisms by which Baltic amber degrades, in order to develop techniques for preventive conservation of archaeological amber objects belonging to the National Museum of Denmark’s collections. To examine deterioration of Baltic amber, a starting point was to identify and monitor surface and bulk properties which are affected during degradation. The way to operate consisted of the use of accelerated ageing to initiate degradation of raw Baltic amber samples in different conditions of relative humidity, oxygen exposure or pH and, successively, of the use of non/micro-destructive techniques to identify and quantify changes in visual, chemical and structural properties. A large piece of raw Baltic amber was used to prepare several test samples for two different kinds of accelerated ageing: thermal-ageing and photo-ageing. During the ageing, amber samples were regularly examined through several analytical techniques related to different information: appearance/colour change by visual examination, photography and colorimetry; chemical change by infrared spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and elemental analysis; rate of oxidation by oxygen measurement; qualitative analysis of released volatiles by gas chromatography – mass spectrometry. The obtained results were analysed through both critical evaluation and statistical study. After the interpretation of the achieved data, the main relations between amber and environmental factors during the degradation process became clearer and it was possible to identify the major pathways by which amber degrades, such as hydrolysis of esters into alcohols and carboxylic acids, thermal-oxidation and photo-oxidation of terpenoid components, depolymerisation and decomposition of the chemical structure. At the end it was possible to suggest a preventive conservation strategy based on the control of climatic, atmospheric and lighting parameters in the environment where Baltic amber objects are stored and displayed.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Pastorelli, Gianluca
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze chimiche
Settore disciplinare
Parole chiave
amber degradation conservation museum
Data di discussione
12 Ottobre 2009

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