CHRONOCU

This project was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), project no. P 34960-G (“Electrochemical age determination of archaeological bronzes”; head of project: Marianne Mödlinger). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish (online and/or scientific papers). There has been no additional external funding received for this study. The project is located at the Department of Archaeologies, University of Innsbruck, Austria, from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2024.

Archaeological bronzes are still dated exclusively typologically and relatively by their find context. Lead isotope analysis (210Pb) on bronzes can provide moreover information on whether the object was made with metal that is less than 150 years old; however, this is not relevant for archaeological bronze objects deriving from a secure find context.

First results from electrochemical examinations indicate that bronzes can also be relatively dated on the basis of selected corrosion products. The analysis is considered non-destructive, as only a few mg of corrosion are dabbed from the surface of the bronze. Using voltammetry of immobilised particles (VIMP), the ratio of the copper oxides cuprite and tenorite is measured, which provides information about the age of the object, respectively the time of its deposition in the ground.

Analyses will be carried out in cooperation with the University of Valencia with leading scientists in the research field of electrochemical dating. Besides the electrochemical analyses, we will also investigate the influence of various factors such as chemical composition and microstructure on the measurements. By examining 250 bronzes from the Copper Age to the Middle Ages (ca. 2800 B.C. to 1000 A.D.), we will furthermore

  • assess the potential of VIMP for dating archaeological bronzes;
  • create a statistically calibrated reference data as a baseline for VIMP; and
  • evaluate the potential of VIMP for the identification of recent forgeries.

In addition, chemical and spectroscopic analyses of the samples provide a detailed characterisation of the individual corrosion products. The project bridges the gap between natural science and humanities by providing analytical data for the age of archaeological bronzes through analysis of the objects themselves rather than their find contexts – this means it can be applied also to objects with unknown find context. It is the aim of ChronoCu to establish voltammetry as a standardized methodology to determine the age of archaeological bronzes, and provide calibration data for future studies.

Project Team

Mag. Dr. (habil.) Marianne Mödlinger graduated at the University of Vienna in prehistoric and historic archaeology with a focus on bronze manufacturing, technique, and usage. She received her habilitation in archaeology in Italy in April 2017. As the project leader and principal investigator for several international and interdisciplinary projects (Funding by FP7, H2020, FWF, and others), she spent a significant amount of time abroad at different research institutions (universities of Bordeaux and Genoa). M. Mödlinger has an outstanding knowledge of copper alloy metallurgy and manufacturing techniques. She has published three books and over 65 book chapters and articles in mainly peer-reviewed, international journals, given over 35 presentations, and is regularly invited as lecturer.

Dr. Laura Osete Cortina holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Valencia (Spain). She is experienced in the development of analytical strategies for the characterization of organic and inorganic materials and their alteration products in cultural goods by means of the application of the following techniques: Light Microscopy, SEM-EDX, Electrochemical Techniques, FTIR Spectroscopy, XRD, and Separation Techniques (GC-MS and Pyrolysis-GC-MS). Since 2017, as associate professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts in the Polytechnic University of Valencia, she has taught subjects about the physico-chemical properties of materials and the analytical techniques for the study of cultural heritage. She has participated in 15 research projects, in more than 300 agreements with institutions and restoration companies, and has published 56 contributions in peer-reviewed international journals.

María Teresa Doménech Carbó, B.Sc., D.Phil in Chemistry  (Universitat de València), since 1999 professor in Science of Conservation, Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), since 2005 until 2016 was director of the Institut Universitari de Restauració del Patrimoni (IRP) of the UPV and editor-in-chief of Arché, the Journal of IRP Research. In a research career spanning 25 years, she has published over 200 papers and books on chemical and physical methods of analysis of artworks. She has made over 150 presentations of her research work at international seminars and conferences. She has directed over 12 regional, national and European R+D. She has supervised 20 research students successfully for the degrees of Ph.D. in chemistry and cultural heritage conservation.

Antonio Doménech Carbó (Valencia, Spain, 1953) is Professor at the Department of Analytical Chemistry, University of Valencia (PhD 1989). His research is focused on solid state electrochemistry with particular emphasis in the study of porous materials and the development of electroanalytical methods for archaeometry, conservation and restoration. He is author of more than 250 articles including one IUPAC’s technical report, and several books. Currently, he is member of the editorial board of ChemTexts (Springer) and topical editor of Journal of Solid State Electrochemistry (Springer).

Cooperation

Publications

Doménech-Carbó, A. – Mödlinger, M., – Doménech-Carbóc, M.T. (2021). Multiple-scan voltammetry and OCP: archaeometric tools for dating archaeological bronzes. Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 893, 115336. doi: 10.1016/j.jelechem.2021.115336 (Open Access)