Neutron-Enhanced Information on the Laboratory Characterization of Ancient Egyptian Leathers: Hydration and Preservation Status

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Sociology, Egyptology & Anthropology Department

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Giovanni Romanelli ,Carla Andreani ,Enrico Ferraris ,Christian Greco ,Salima Ikram ,Silvia Licoccia ,Giuseppe Paladini,Stewart F. Parker,Enrico Preziosi ,Roberto Senesi ,Lucy Skinner ,André J. Veldmeijer ,Valentina Venuti , Valentina Turina

Document Type

Research Article

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Publication Date

Fall 9-29-2022




The Museo Egizio’s collection contains 200 precious and unique leather artifacts belonging to different historical periods. The materials used during the tanning and curing procedures affect the chemical and elemental composition of the surface of the samples as well as their preservation status, specifically through the hydration level within the bulk. Here we provide an experimental characterization of a series of samples from Museo Egizio that document an extensive denaturation phenomenon (gelatinization), by combining non-destructive techniques including surface probes (X-ray fluorescence, Raman scattering, and scanning electron microscopy enhanced by X-ray energy spectroscopy) and neutron-based bulk techniques (inelastic and deep-inelastic neutron scattering). Results show partial dehydration of the samples in the bulk, affecting the morphology of their surface, the presence of potassium alum, and iron oxides, as well as phosphates and hydroxides related to the tanning and curing procedures. Finally, we briefly discuss the need for a versatile and adaptable software package that is capable of combining quantitative analyses with complementary techniques including morphological, elemental, and chemical composition.

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