CHC:APART: Provenancing of Marbles

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APART: Provenancing of Marbles

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APART: Provenancing of Marbles

New mineralogical and geochemical approaches to provenancing eastern-Alpine marbles

APART (Austrian Program for Advanced Reseach and Technology) scholarship

Applicant:
MMag.Dr. Michael Unterwurzacher
Archaeometry and Cultural Heritage Computing Research Group
Department of Geography and Geology, University of Salzburg
Hellbrunnerstraße 34, A-5020 Salzburg, Austria.

Rock with historic tool marks

Abstract:

Marble has gained great significance in cultural history as a building stone, as decorative material and, in particular, as material for statues. Marble production and its use have been documented since the Neolithic, pre-industrial quarrying of marble began in Mediterranean countries during the Bronze Age. Large scale marble quarrying was carried out by the Romans in present-day Greece, on the Greek Islands and also in Turkey. Material from these quarries can be found in all parts of the Roman Empire. The Romans also prospected for high quality materials in their provinces and also used these materials for their purposes. Roman use of marble from several marble quarries in Central Europe has, in some cases, been documented by archaeological findings and, in others, assumed. Marbles from Carrara and Laas in Italy, and from Gummern in Austria, are still the best known in Central Europe; they have been used from antiquity up to the present. While the provenance of marble used in modern buildings is mostly known and well documented, this is often not the case for historical objects. Even greater difficulties arise for objects found in the northern provinces, where there are many more possible sources than in the Roman homeland due to the combination of local production and the highly developed Roman transport systems. Until now only a very limited number of scientific investigations have been completed into these marbles from the provinces. Studies by Unterwurzacher (2007), Djuric et al. (2003) and Zöldföldi et al. (2004) have used stable isotopes of C and O, a limited number of trace elements, and grain size criteria to describe the material from the various quarries. While a differentiation between most of the quarries is possible through the use of a combination of these methods, they are unable to distinguish between the most important quarries, which are at Pohorje in Slovenia, Gummern in Carinthia (Austria) and Sterzing in South Tyrol (Italy).

The aim of this project is to improve the knowledge of central European marbles and to use new or newly-combined techniques to study the provenance of marbles. This will include

  1. Representative sampling in the field for the working program
  2. Characterization of the different marbles by mineralogical, petrographic and geochemical methods, with special emphasis on their C and O isotopes
  3. Use of the following scientific methods for distinguishing eastern Alpine marbles:
    1. cathodoluminescence microscopy, combined with (2)
    2. electron microprobe analysis
    3. measurement of strontium isotopes
    4. measurement of lead isotopes
    5. EPR measurements

The results from this study will be published in national and international scientific journals, but will also be publicly available as they will be included in the SAXA LOQUUNTUR database.