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Handheld XRF for Art and Archaeology

Handheld XRF for Art and Archaeology

Aaron N. Shugar
Jennifer L. Mass
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Handheld XRF for Art and Archaeology
    Book Description:

    Over the last decade the technique of X-ray fluorescence has evolved, from dependence on laboratory-based standalone units to field use of portable and lightweight handheld devices. These portable instruments have given researchers in art conservation and archaeology the opportunity to study a broad range of materials with greater accessibility and flexibility than ever before. In addition, the low relative cost of handheld XRF has led many museums, academic institutions, and cultural centres to invest in the devices for routine materials analysis purposes. Although these instruments often greatly simplify data collection, proper selection of analysis conditions and interpretation of the data still require an understanding of the principles of x-ray spectroscopy. These instruments are often marketed and used as ‘point and shoot' solutions; however, their inexpert use can easily generate deceptive or erroneous results. This volume focuses specifically on the applications, possibilities, and limitations of handheld XRF in art conservation and archaeology. The papers deal with experimental methodologies, protocols, and possibilities of handheld XRF analysis in dealing with the complexity of materials encountered in this research.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-069-5
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. List of Illustrations (with partial captions)
    (pp. 9-14)
  2. List of Tables (with partial captions)
    (pp. 15-16)
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 17-36)
    Aaron N. Shugar and Jennifer L. Mass

    Over the last decade the advancement of X-ray generation and detection technology has allowed the instrumentation of X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to evolve from laboratory-based standalone units to highly portable and lightweight handheld devices (Piorek 1998; Potts, 2008). These instruments [termed handheld XRF or portable XRF (PXRF) spectrometers] have given researchers in the fields of art conservation and archaeology the opportunity to study many of the materials encountered in their work with greater accessibility and flexibility than ever before. As a result, handheld XRF represents a great potential advance for these fields. Handheld XRF spectrometers allow, for example, for the nondestructive...

  4. Chapter 2 Handheld X-ray fluorescence analysis of Renaissance bronzes: Practical approaches to quantification and acquisition
    (pp. 37-74)
    Dylan Smith

    Handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) has become a highly desirable technique for the investigation of works of art that makes it possible to perform quantitative elemental analysis regardless of location. Until now XRF analysis has been limited to the collections of institutions with scientific resources, temporary loans to those institutions, or, less commonly, objects transported for testing with the associated costs. One of the earliest applications of XRF analysis to works of art was on a Renaissance ‘bronze’ (Jestaz 1972) and subsequent studies have demonstrated the value of this technique for the study of this important form of sculpture. (‘Bronze’...

  5. Chapter 3 Application of a handheld XRF spectrometer in research and identification of photographs
    (pp. 75-130)
    Dusan C. Stulik and Art Kaplan

    The era of classical or chemical photography began in the early 19thcentury with key camera based experiments by Thomas Wedgwood (Eder 1978) and Joseph Nicephore Niepce (Marignier 1999), and with the introduction of the first “practical” photographic process by Daguerre in 1839 (Daguerre 1839). Since then more than 150 different photographic processes and process variants have been invented, tested and introduced into photographic practice (Woodbury 1898, Jones 1911, Nadeau 1989, Cartier-Bresson 2008, Lavedrine 2009). Some photographic processes such as albumen, tintype, silver gelatin or chromogenic C-print processes were used for many decades. Millions of photographic images have been created...

  6. Chapter 4 Handheld XRF for the examination of paintings: proper use and limitations
    (pp. 131-158)
    Chris McGlinchey

    When investigating paintings, examination of pigments often commences with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) even though this method only infers pigments via the elemental substituents identified. It is often amongst the first tools used because sometimes elemental data is sufficient for pigment characterization and it can be obtained without sampling or contact. However, the interpretation of data from layered structures typical for paintings is more complex than other applications such as metal alloy or soil analysis, where portable XRF is also used and where it is assumed elements are uniformly distributed and not stratified. Artists are of course free to mix pigments...

  7. Chapter 5 XRF analysis of manuscript illuminations
    (pp. 159-190)
    K. Trentelman, C. Schmidt Patterson and N. Turner

    Illuminated manuscripts, bound books consisting of pages (folios) of either parchment or paper containing written text, painted illustrations (often decorated with gold, from which the term “illumination” is derived), decorative initial letters and borders or margin designs, are among the most prevalent object types to survive into the modern era (Brown 1994; de Hamel 2001; Clemens and Graham 2007). Illuminated manuscripts were produced by nearly every culture, and date from antiquity through the present day. The examples discussed in this chapter draw primarily from medieval manuscripts, but the techniques described for their study using handheld XRF would be equally applicable...

  8. Chapter 6 XRF analysis of historical paper in open books
    (pp. 191-214)
    Tim Barrett, Robert Shannon, Jennifer Wade and Joseph Lang

    In 2007 the Institute for Museum and Library Services funded research at the University of Iowa Center for the Book designed to gather data on previously unstudied components in 14ththrough 19thcentury western papers. The research employed non-destructive analytical techniques fairly new to the paper conservation field. Its purpose was to provide conservators and other preservation specialists with new information about paper stability, manufacture, and compositional changes during aging and conservation treatment.

    During our main period of interest, between 1300 and 1800, all paper in Europe was made by hand. The raw material for writing and printing paper was...

  9. Chapter 7 Quantitative non-destructive analysis of historic silver alloys: X-ray fluorescence approaches and challenges
    (pp. 215-248)
    Jennifer Mass and Catherine Matsen

    Winterthur Museum’s Scientific Research and Analysis Laboratory has used open architecture energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to study historic silver alloys since 1970. These alloy analyses are carried out to answer questions about an object’s provenance, authenticity, technology of manufacture, and state of preservation. The origins of the metal and the identification of later modifications and pastiches are of particular importance for American silver alloys. The advent of handheld XRF has allowed even greater access to historic silver objects from the museum’s collections and also from related collections. However, the quantitative and non-destructive analysis of historic silver alloys using XRF is...

  10. Chapter 8 The analysis of porcelain using handheld and portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometers
    (pp. 249-312)
    Anikó Bezur and Francesca Casadio

    Porcelain objects are most often curated as part of decorative arts collections or those highlighting the arts of Asia. Unless pursued as part of archaeometric studies that involve object fragments or production-related debris, the compositional study of porcelain bodies presents a special challenge due to the need that sample removal be avoided. Energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometers have the potential to meet this challenge due to their ability to be used in a non-destructive and noninvasive fashion. While scientists have explored the use of XRF for the analysis of ceramic remains, most recent studies have focused on relatively low-fired, ironrich matrices...

  11. Chapter 9 Handheld XRF use in the identification of heavy metal pesticides in ethnographic collections
    (pp. 313-348)
    Aaron N. Shugar and P. Jane Sirois

    A wide range of pest control techniques has been used on museum collections, in particular on natural history and ethnographic collections. These include the use of heavy metal compounds which are considered the most persistent forms of pesticide. The proliferation of handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometers (XRF), with their non-destructive/ non-invasive nature of analysis, in the fields of art conservation and museum research has resulted in an increase in the investigation of ethnographic and natural history collections for residues of earlier pesticide treatments. The specific heavy metals that are of greatest concern are arsenic (As), mercury (Hg) and lead (Pb). Compounds...

  12. Chapter 10 Using handheld XRF to aid in phasing, locus comparisons, and material homogeneity assessment at an archaeological excavation
    (pp. 349-378)
    Mary Kate Donais and David George

    The availability of a number of commercially produced, affordable, handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers has meant that this instrument has become an important and valuable tool for field archaeologists. Characterization of various materials such as ceramics (Papadopoulouet al. 2006), glass (Ricciet al. 2004), metals (Karydaset al. 2004; Karydas 2007), and mortars (Donaiset al. 2010) is achieved quickly and easily at site with no destruction of the artifacts. The advertised “point and shoot” design of these instruments does come with limitations, however. Care and caution are required to achieve meaningful results.

    Some archaeological samples such as obsidian...

  13. Chapter 11 Handheld XRF elemental analysis of archaeological sediments: some examples from Mesoamerica
    (pp. 379-400)
    Hector Neff, Barbara Voorhies and Federico Paredes Umaña

    The highly portable, durable handheld XRF instruments that have appeared on the market over the past few years hold tremendous potential for archaeology. The instruments can easily be transported to remote field stations, where they can either be set up and used in a field lab or used on-site, to analyze artifacts or sedimentsin situ. The present paper focuses on sediment analysis, which is useful for activity-area identification (e.g., Hutson and Terry 2006; Dahlinet al. 2007; Wellset al. 2007; Wells and Terry 2007) and in stratigraphic interpretation.

    Traditionally, archaeologists have described sediments according to color, texture, moisture...

  14. Chapter 12 X-Ray fluorescence of obsidian: approaches to calibration and the analysis of small samples
    (pp. 401-422)
    Jeffrey R. Ferguson

    For decades, archaeologists have used a number of techniques to determine the compositions of geological sources of chemically homogenous materials and then attempted to match artifacts to sources to understand trade and exchange of material objects. Such provenance research is common with glassy rhyolites (obsidian) that were used wherever available as a source of raw material for flaked stone artifacts such as projectile points and cutting tools. Handheld X-ray fluorescence, of all of the analytical techniques available for obsidian compositional analysis, has the potential to make the greatest impact by combining non-destructive analysis with rapid results, relatively low equipment and...

  15. Chapter 13 Handheld XRF analysis of Maya ceramics: a pilot study presenting issues related to quantification and calibration
    (pp. 423-448)
    Jim J. Aimers, Dori J. Farthing and Aaron N. Shugar

    The investigation of archaeological ceramics has a long and varied history with regard to the analytical instrumentation used (for general examples, see Peacock 1970; Bishopet al. 1982; Rice 1987; Pollardet al. 2007). In recent years newer applications have been used for the analysis of ceramic materials as well, including ICP-MS (Fermoet al. 2008; Mannino and Orecchio 2011) and INAA (Glascock 1992; Neff 2000). In most cases the motivation to obtain chemical concentrations from archaeological ceramics has been to establish the source of the clay matrix. This has proven possible using instrumentation with low detection limits (i.e. trace...

  16. Chapter 14 Glass analysis utilizing handheld X-ray fluorescence
    (pp. 449-470)
    Bruce Kaiser and Aaron Shugar

    The analysis of glass artifacts, whether they are modern, historical or archaeological, has been a major focus of investigation for cultural heritage researchers. The seminal paper by Sayre and Smith (1961) demonstrated the value in determining the chemical composition of glass to aid in the identification of the manufacturing raw materials. Since then the chemical composition of glass has been used to characterize raw materials use (Freestone 2005), establish base glass composition (Rehren 2000), suggest trade patterns (Kenyonet al. 1995; Waltonet al. 2009), investigate glass colorants (i.e. Sanderson and Hutchings 1987), and help determine firing temperatures used in...