Sampling Ancient Polychromy: low-impact sample collection for provenance research


Marble sculpture of Jupiter/Zeus with red lead paint, part of the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, DK

Usually, only traces of the original polychromy (i.e. paint grounds, binders, pigments) of Greek and Roman marble sculptures remain and analytical approaches are often limited to qualitative characterization. Well-established approaches include non-destructive spectral analysis, semi-quantitative elemental mapping by pXRF, phase analysis by Raman spectroscopy, or techniques that require cutting sample chips (e.g. SEM-EDS).

The provenance analysis of pigments also requires sample chips/scrapings for element and isotope analysis by mass spectrometry. However, keeping the impact of sampling to a minimum is key for preserving as much of the ancient polychromy as possible.

To reduce sample quantity, without compromising the quality of the results, the objectives of SAnPol are twofold: First, test a new technique for low-impact sampling; then, evaluate pigment provenance by matching the geochemical information of pigments with known ore deposits.

PI: Alexandra S. Rodler, Austrian Archaeoloigcal Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences
This project was funded by the Dr. Anton Oelzelt-Newin’schen Stiftung