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Identification of single archaeological textile fibres from the cave of letters using synchrotron radiation microbeam diffraction and microfluorescence


Single 2000-year-old archaeological fibres from textile fragments excavated in the Cave of Letters in the Dead Sea region were investigated by a combined approach using microscopy (optical and SEM), X-ray microbeam diffraction and X-ray microbeam fluorescence. In comparison with modern reference samples, most of the fibres were identified as wool, some as plant bast fibres (flax). The molecular and supermolecular structure of both keratin (wool) and cellulose (flax) were found completely intact. In many fibres, mineral crystals were intimately connected with the fibres. The fluorescence analysis of the dyed wool textiles suggests the possible use of metal-containing mordants for the fixation of organic dyes.

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Correspondence to M. Müller.

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61.10.Nz; 78.70.En; 81.05.Lg

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Müller, M., Murphy, B., Burghammer, M. et al. Identification of single archaeological textile fibres from the cave of letters using synchrotron radiation microbeam diffraction and microfluorescence. Appl. Phys. A 83, 183–188 (2006).

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  • Mineral Crystal
  • Diffraction Diagram
  • Cave Sediment
  • Textile Fragment
  • Plant Bast