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Anal Chem. 2002 Mar 1;74(5):965-75.

Identification of archaeological adhesives using direct inlet electron ionization mass spectrometry.

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Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musée de France, UMR CNRS 171, Laboratoire de recherche des musées de France, Paris.


Adhesives made from natural substances such as resins, tars, and waxes are found during excavations on archaeological sites dating back to prehistoric periods. Until now, their analysis was mainly performed by gas chromatography, possibly coupled to mass spectrometry, after extraction, purification, and derivatization of the samples. To minimize sampling and sample preparation of ancient organic remains, which are often preserved in tiny amounts, we have directly analyzed archaeological samples from Bronze and Iron Age periods by direct inlet electron ionization mass spectrometry. A series of contemporary natural and synthetic substances, including pine and pistacia resins, birch bark tar, beeswax, and plant oils, possibly used for adhesive fabrication during ancient times, was also investigated with the same technique as reference materials. Despite the complexity of their chemical composition, pine resin and birch bark tar were clearly identified in archaeological samples. Furthermore, mass spectrometry has been shown to be efficient for the identification of glues made of a mixture of beeswax, presenting a series of mass spectral peaks assigned to long-chain esters, and birch bark tar, whose mass spectrum presents characteristic peaks of lupane compounds. The intentional mixing of birch bark tar and beeswax during prehistory is reported here for the first time.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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