Application of µ-Raman spectroscopy to the study of the corrosion products of archaeological coins

Tilde de Caro, Emma Angelini, Leila Es Sebar


In this paper, a study of the corrosion products formed on archaeological bronze artefacts excavated in Tharros (Sardinia, Italy) is presented. The investigation was carried out by means of the combination of different analytical techniques, including optical microscopy, micro-Raman spectroscopy (µ-RS), scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction. The artefacts under study are three bronze coins from the Phoenician–Punic period that are deeply corroded due to the chloride-rich soil of the Tharros excavation site. µ-Raman spectroscopy was chosen to investigate the corroded surfaces of the artefacts because it is a non-destructive technique, it has high spatial resolution, and it makes it possible to discriminate between polymorphs and correlate colour and chemical composition. Through µ-RS, it was possible to identify different mineralogical phases and different polymorphs, such as cuprite (Cu2O), copper trihydroxychloride [Cu2Cl(OH)3] polymorphs, hydroxy lead chloride laurionite [PbCl(OH)] and calcium carbonate polymorph aragonite. The experimental findings highlight that micro-Raman spectroscopy can be used to provide further knowledge regarding the environmental factors that may cause the degradation of archaeological bronzes in soil.

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