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The need to reveal information regarding mineral composition, as well as to understand the manufacture and origin of artifacts, has led toó For archaeologists to take advantage of exact science techniques, this disciplinary alliance is part of what is known as archaeology.
Researchers from the National Science Laboratory for Research and Preservation of Cultural Heritage (lansik) of the Institute of Physics (IF) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the University of Campeche, conducting a four-day research at the Xalapa Museum of Anthropology (MAX) of the University of Veracruzana (UV).
Henri Noel Bernard Medina, director of MAX, said it was a collaboration between the museum and lansik From IF, whose objective was the mineral and elemental analysis of about 45 artifacts, including Lord of Las Limas.
It should be noted that to conduct this study, it was previously approved and permission was obtained from the Board of Archeology of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
“It is a job where the exact sciences support archeology, with technological equipment – which is neither destructive nor intrusive – they can perform an analysis of the mineral and elemental composition of artifacts and historical artifacts, paintings, sculptures and pieces of various materials.”
This is not the first time this collaboration has taken place, since previous researchers from lansik They visited MAX to support thesis and/or doctoral theses, who as part of their research wanted to analyze specific groups.
For this reason, Bernard Medina has announced that he is considering signing a cooperation agreement between MAX and lansik UNAM.
Interdisciplinary and inter-institutional work
The work he did lansik In artifacts, they are framed within a system called archaeology, which supports archeology to know the basic and mineral composition.
Henry Noel Bernard said that the work can be called interdisciplinary and interinstitutional, in which researchers from different disciplines and educational institutions participated.
The result of the study will directly benefit MAX and its visitors, as it will contain descriptive files with accurate information, such as the material from which it is made and its possible origin.
“The short-term goal is for MAX to have more and better information about the parts it protects; and in the long-term, to publish scientific articles in collaboration with UNAM researchers.”
Students from the MAX UV Physics and Anthropology faculties attended and spoke with the invited scientists to learn about the operation of the technological equipment used to analyze the pieces.
Physics and chemistry reveal information from archaeological materials
Oscar de Lucio, Senior Researcher at lansik From the UNAM Institute of Physics, he explained that the reason for his research stay at MAX was to study different groups of stony and rocky bodies in general, in order to determine their mineral composition.
“The information obtained will help us understand what the pieces were made of, how we can better preserve them and create mechanisms for their preservation, because they are part of the cultural heritage of Mexico.”
To carry out these studies, they use applied physics and chemistry, disciplines that allow a diversity of analysis techniques, especially spectroscopy techniques; That is, they use radiation at different wavelengths to find out the chemical and elemental composition of substances, as well as some properties.
“Among the equipment we’ve brought in is X-ray fluorescence, a technology that provides us with raw information; X-ray diffraction; infrared spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy, both of which provide us with molecular information; and microscopy.”
In the case of the number Lord of Limas, detailing that it was analyzed using X-ray diffraction, that is, what they did was the effect of an X-ray photon on the studied object, to read the information reflected from it.
“This allows us to determine the arrangement of the atoms in the material it is made of, hence knowing the metal and the stone it is made of, which helps us create a conservation mechanism.”
The visit was attended by five researchers from the UNAM Institute of Physics and a collaborator from the University of Campeche, who studied three groups – of 10, 14 and 20 pieces – and Lord of Limas.
It’s all stonework, said Oscar de Lucio, between massive carvings and statues and some decorations like beads and earmuffs, “it’s a very wide and varied collection.”
He added, “I tell the students that it is an option to apply the hard sciences (physics and chemistry), it goes beyond academic work and being in the lab, it allows us to go to archaeological fields and sites.
“Moreover, it is an option that is not usually considered by scholars, and above all it is an application that directly affects the cultural heritage of Mexico.”
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