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Dating and characterization of ancient materials. Materials science and cultural heritage

Anna Galli, Marco Martini, Emanuela Sibilia

Since 1980 our activity has been mainly focussed on the application of scientific techniques to archaeology, geology  and cultural heritage, in particular in the field of absolute dating and characterisation of archaeological materials. For what concerns the dating techniques, thermoluminescence (TL) and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) are used to determine the event of ceramics firing and sediment deposition respectively.  Other available techniques are dendrochronology (dating of wood) and radiocarbon (preparation of samples for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, AMS, to evaluate the concentration of 14C atoms in organic remains).

The laboratory is member of the CUDaM (Centro Universitario Datazioni Università di Milano Bicocca, http://cudam.mater.uninib.it) , and  of the CRESM (Cultural Resources Management Centre, http://www.cresm.unimib.it).

The main application  is to ceramics from archaeological excavations, and bricks from historical buildings. Beyond ceramics, good results are reached with hearths, kilns, flints and clay-cores of bronzes. Our activity has been recently oriented to the study of non ceramic materials (archaeological glasses, metallurgical slags, mortars) and to geological applications (luminescence dating of eolic and marine sediments, volcanic tufa, palaeosoils).

Martini - Galli - Sibilia



Main activities:

  • Fundamental study of the low temperature  TL peak in quartz and of the Pre-dose effect
  • Study of the optical properties of mosaic glasses
  • Study of charge transfer phenomena in quartz and feldspars luminescence.
  • Studies of new procedures for the extraction of collagen from modern and archaeological bones for 14C dating
  • Studies of new procedures for identifying and selecting the anthropogenic  calcite from the geogenic one in archaeological mortars; TL and OSL dating of mortars.
  • Surface dating
  • Study and characterisation of natural dosimetric materials  for accident dosimetry