Identification of rumanite (Romanian amber) as thermally altered succinite (Baltic amber)
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Romanian amber (rumanite) has been considered to be a separate species of fossil resin for more than a century. While earlier investigators held it to be very similar to succinite (Baltic amber), modern scholars have assigned it a distinctly different botanical origin. We have found that almost all of the constituents of the ether-soluble fractions of 13 specimens of authentic rumanite identified by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry have previously been reported in the soluble fraction of succinite, including succinic acid and its monoterpene esters. Additionally and significantly, the soluble fraction of rumanite contains a number defunctionalized compounds that do not preexist in succinite, but that are produced by pyrolysis of whole succinite or of its insoluble polymeric fraction. Simultaneous methylation pyrolysis–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry of the polymeric fraction of seven of the rumanite specimens yielded further copious amounts of dimethyl succinate, a number of diterpene resin acid methyl esters, and additional defunctionalized compounds known to be pyrolysis products of succinite. The evidence shows conclusively that the botanical origin of rumanite is not distinct from that of succinite. Rather, rumanite is a succinite that has suffered partial thermal degradation in the course of the folding of the Oligocene Kliwa sandstone formation in which it is most commonly found.
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