Polychromy on the Antonine Wall Distance sculptures: non-destructive Identification of pigments on Roman reliefs

Campbell, L. (2020) Polychromy on the Antonine Wall Distance sculptures: non-destructive Identification of pigments on Roman reliefs. Britannia, 51, pp. 175-201. (doi: 10.1017/S0068113X20000124)

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Non-destructive analytical techniques are now widely and successfully employed in the fields of materials science and conservation. Portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) and portable Raman spectrometry have proven particularly valuable for the rapid in-situ analysis of samples, but their applicability for the analysis of archaeological artefacts for which survival of surface treatments can be negatively impacted by post-depositional processes has been underexplored. Roman relief-sculpted monumental inscriptions from the Antonine Wall, commonly referred to as ‘Distance Slabs’, have offered an excellent opportunity to deploy these non-destructive techniques to determine whether they were originally adorned with pigments and, if so, to identify the colours used. This is a revolutionary approach to identifying colours on ancient sandstone sculpture that transforms our understanding of these unique monuments. Elemental composition analysis by pXRF has confirmed evidence for pigments and this is supported by the Raman results, making it possible to develop and reconstruct a palette of colours that originally brought these monuments to life in vibrant polychrome. The research offers a new methodology for identifying pigments on sandstone sculpture and opens new avenues for investigating other classes of material culture alongside the development of bespoke analytical equipment.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was funded by Historic Environment Scotland (HEAP2470491033).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Campbell, Dr Louisa
Authors: Campbell, L.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Archaeology
Journal Name:Britannia
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN (Online):1753-5352
Published Online:25 June 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Author
First Published:First published in Britannia 51:175-201
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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