Session W21: Novel Imaging Techniques and Calorimetry

11:15 AM–2:15 PM, Thursday, March 24, 2011
Room: D161

Sponsoring Unit: GIMS
Chair: Wilhelmus Geerts, Texas State University

Abstract ID: BAPS.2011.MAR.W21.13

Abstract: W21.00013 : X-Ray Fluorescence Imaging of Ancient Artifacts

1:39 PM–1:51 PM

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  Robert Thorne
    (Cornell University)

  Ethan Geil
    (Cornell University)

  Kathryn Hudson
  Charles Crowther
    (Oxford University)

Many archaeological artifacts feature inscribed and/or painted text or figures which, through erosion and aging, have become difficult or impossible to read with conventional methods. Often, however, the pigments in paints contain metallic elements, and traces may remain even after visible markings are gone. A promising non-destructive technique for revealing these remnants is X-ray fluorescence (XRF) imaging, in which a tightly focused beam of monochromatic synchrotron radiation is raster scanned across a sample. At each pixel, an energy-dispersive detector records a fluorescence spectrum, which is then analyzed to determine element concentrations. In this way, a map of various elements is made across a region of interest. We have succesfully XRF imaged ancient Greek, Roman, and Mayan artifacts, and in many cases, the element maps have revealed significant new information, including previously invisible painted lines and traces of iron from tools used to carve stone tablets. X-ray imaging can be used to determine an object's provenance, including the region where it was produced and whether it is authentic or a copy.

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