Materials Characterization for Cultural Heritage: XRF Case Studies in Archaeology and Art

  • Brady LissEmail author
  • Samantha Stout
Part of the Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences book series (QMHSS)


X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy has become an important materials characterization technique used by researchers studying cultural and archaeological artifacts. XRF is often a first choice for an initial materials investigation due to its nondestructive nature, swift setup, short acquisition times, portability, and ease of use. XRF analysis is noninvasive, and can be undertaken without contacting the artifact, making it also preferred from a conservation standpoint, and routinely adopted by heritage conservation practitioners. In particular, handheld, portable XRF instruments can be easily transported and deployed under most field scenarios and conditions. As such, XRF has secured its place in the cultural heritage/archaeological tool box. This chapter will present an overview of the role and use of XRF for the collection/acquisition of materials characterization data on cultural heritage and archaeological artifacts.


XRF Materials Heritage Archaeology Art 


  1. Ben-Yosef, Erez. 2010. Technology and social process: oscillations in Iron Age copper production and power in Southern Jordan. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego.Google Scholar
  2. Ben-Yosef, Erez, and Thomas E. Levy. 2014. A “small town” discovered twice: a forgotten report of major H. H. Kitchener. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 146 (3): 179–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ben-Yosef, Erez, Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Higham, Mohammad Najjar, and Lisa Tauxe. 2010. The beginning of Iron Age copper production in the southern Levant: new evidence from Khirbat al-Jariya, Faynan, Jordan. Antiquity 84 (325): 724–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bonizzoni, L., et al. 2011. A critical analysis of the application of EDXRF spectrometry on complex stratigraphies. X-Ray Spectrometry 40 (4): 247–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Charalambous, Andreas, Vasiliki Kassianidou, and George Papasavvas. 2014. A compositional study of Cypriot bronzes dating to the Early Iron Age using portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF). Journal of Archaeological Science 46: 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cosentino, Antonino. 2016. Scientific examination of cultural heritage raises awareness in local communities: the case of the newly discovered cycle of mural paintings in the Crucifix Chapel (Italy). Cultural heritage science open source project report 2016. Google Scholar
  7. Cosentino, Antonino, S. Stout, R. Di Mauro, and C. Perondi. 2014. The Crucifix Chapel of Aci Sant’Antonio: newly discovered frescoes. Archeomatica 5 (2): 36–42.Google Scholar
  8. Cosentino, Antonino, M. Galizia, C. Santagati, C. Scandurra, M. Sgarlata, and S. Stout. 2015a. Multidisciplinary investigations on the Byzantine Oratory of the Catacombs of Saint Lucia in Syracuse. In Proceedings of the 2015 digital heritage international conference, eds. Gabriele Guidi, et al. IEEE.Google Scholar
  9. Cosentino, Antonino, S. Stout, and C. Scandurra. 2015b. Innovative imaging techniques for examination and documentation of mural paintings and historical graffiti in the catacombs of San Giovanni, Syracuse. International Journal of Conservation Science (IJCS) 6 (1): 23–34.Google Scholar
  10. De Benedetto, Giuseppe E., et al. 2013. The study of the mural painting in the 12th century monastery of Santa Maria delle Cerrate (Puglia-Italy): characterization of materials and techniques used. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 44: 899–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Delaney, John K., et al. 2014. Use of imaging spectroscopy, fiber optic reflectance spectroscopy, and X-ray fluorescence to map and identify pigments in illuminated manuscripts. Studies in Conservation 59 (2): 91–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Edwards, H.G.M. 2004. Probing history with Raman spectroscopy. The Analyst 129 (10): 870–879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eliyahu-Behar, Adi, Naama Yahalom-Mack, Yuval Gadot, and Israel Finkelstein. 2013. Iron smelting and smithing in major urban centers in Israel during the Iron Age. Journal of Archaeological Science 40: 4319–4330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Galli, S., G. Barone, V. Crupi, D. Majolino, P. Migliardo, and R. Pontero. 2002. Spectroscopic techniques for the investigation of sicilian cultural heritage: two different applications. In Proceedings of the NATO advanced research workshop on molecular and structural archaeology: cosmetic and therapeutic chemicals, ed. Georges Tsoucaris and Janusz Lipkowski, 85–106. Erice, Sicily.Google Scholar
  15. Gebremariam, Kidane Fanta, L. Kvittingen, and F.-G. Banica. 2013. Application of a portable XRF analyzer to investigate the medieval wall paintings of Yemrehanna Krestos Church, Ethiopia. XRay Spectrometry, November 2012.Google Scholar
  16. Genestat, C., and C. Pons. 2005. Earth Pigments in Painting: Characterisation and Differentiation by Means of FTIR Spectroscopy and SEM-EDS Microanalysis. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 282 (2): 269–274.Google Scholar
  17. Glueck, Nelson. 1935. Explorations in Eastern Palestine, II. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research 15: 1–288.Google Scholar
  18. Hauptmann, Andreas. 2007. The archaeometallurgy of copper: evidence from Faynan, Jordan. Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  19. Hunt, Alice M.W., and Robert J. Speakman. 2015. Portable XRF analysis of archaeological sediments and ceramics. Journal of Archaeological Science 53: 626–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Janssens, K., et al. 2000. Use of microscopic XRF for nondestructive analysis in art and archaeometry. X-ray Spectrometry 29 (1): 73–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kitchener, Horatio H. 1884. Major Kitchener’s report. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 16: 202–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lange, Rebecca, Qunxi Zhang, and Haida Liang. 2011. Remote multispectral imaging with PRISMS and XRF analysis of Tang tomb paintings. In Archaeology 8084, ed. Luca Pezzati and Renzo Salimbeni.Google Scholar
  23. Levy, Thomas E., Russell B. Adams, James D. Anderson, Mohammad Najjar, Neil Smith, Yoav Arbel, Lisa Soderbaum, and Adolfo Muniz. 2003. An Iron Age Landscape in the Edomite Lowlands: Archaeological Surveys along Wadi al-Ghuwayb and Wadi al-Jariya, Jabal Hamrat Fidan, Jordan, 2002. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 47: 247–277.Google Scholar
  24. Levy, Thomas E., Thomas Higham, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Neil G. Smith, Erez Ben-Yosef, Mark Robinson, Stefan Munger, Kyle Knabb, Jürgen P. Schulze, Mohammad Najjar, and Lisa Tauxe. 2008. High-precision radiocarbon dating and historical biblical archaeology in southern Jordan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105: 16460–16465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Levy, Thomas E., Mohammad Najjar, Thomas Higham, Yoav Arbel, Adolfo Muniz, Erez Ben-Yosef, Neil G. Smith, Marc Beherec, Aaron Gidding, Ian W. Jones, Daniel Frese, Craig Smitheram, and Mark Robinson. 2014a. Excavations at Khirbat en-Nahas, 2002–2009: an Iron Age copper production center in the lowlands of Edom. In New insights into the Iron Age archaeology of Edom, Southern Jordan: Volume 1, ed. T.E. Levy, M. Najjar, and E. Ben-Yosef, 89–245. Los Angeles: UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press.Google Scholar
  26. Levy, Thomas E., Erez Ben-Yosef, and Mohammad Najjar. 2014b. The Iron Age Edom lowlands regional archaeology project: research, design, and methodology. In New insights into the Iron Age archaeology of Edom, Southern Jordan: Volume 1, ed. T.E. Levy, M. Najjar, and E. Ben-Yosef, 1–87. Los Angeles: UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press.Google Scholar
  27. ———. 2014c. New insights into the Iron Age archaeology of Edom, Southern Jordan. Los Angeles: UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press.Google Scholar
  28. Liss, Brady, and Thomas E. Levy. 2015. One man’s trash: using XRF to recreate ancient narratives from metallurgical waste heaps in Southern Jordan. In Proceedings of the 2015 digital heritage international conference, ed. Gabriele Guidi et al., vol. 1, 27–34. IEEE.Google Scholar
  29. Mazzeo, Rocco, et al. 2004. Characterization of mural painting pigments from the Thubchen Lakhang temple in Lo Manthang, Nepal. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 89 (35): 678–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miliani, Costanza, et al. 2010. In situ noninvasive study of artworks: the MOLAB multitechnique approach. Accounts of Chemical Research 43 (6): 728–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mudge, Mark, Michael Ashley, and Carla Schroer. 2007. A digital future for cultural heritage. In CIPA XXI International Symposium, 1–6.Google Scholar
  32. Rabba’, Ibrahim. 1991. The geology of the Al Qurayqira (Jabal Hamra Faddan): Map Sheet 3051II. 1:50,000 geological mapping series; Geology Bulletin 28. Amman: Royal Jordanian Geographic Centre.Google Scholar
  33. Shugar, Aaron, and Jennifer Mass. 2012. Studies in archaeological sciences: handheld XRF for art and archaeology. Leuven: Leuven University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Stout, Samantha, A. Cosentino, and C. Scandurra. 2014. Non-invasive materials analysis using portable X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) in the examination of two mural paintings in the catacombs of San Giovanni, Syracuse. Lecture notes in computer science, special issue. In Digital heritage, progress in cultural heritage documentation, preservation, and protection, eds. M. Ioannides et al., 697–705 EuroMed 2014, LNCS 8740.Google Scholar
  35. Stout, Samantha, J. Strawson, E. Lo, and F. Kuester. 2015. The WAVEcam: ultra-high resolution imaging of paintings. In Proceedings of the 2015 digital heritage international conference, ed. Gabriele Guidi et al. IEEE.Google Scholar
  36. Švarcová, Silvie, et al. 2011. Clay pigment structure characterisation as a guide for provenance determination–a comparison between laboratory powder micro-XRD and synchrotron radiation XRD. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 399 (1): 331–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Valadas, S., A. Candeias, J. Mirão, D. Tavares, J. Coroado, R. Simon, A. Silva, M. Gil, A. Guilherme, and M. Caryalho. 2011. Study of mural paintings using in situ XRF, confocal synchrotron-μ-XRF, μ-XRD, optical microscopy, and SEM-EDS-the case of the frescoes from Misericordia Church of Odemira. Microscopy and Microanalysis 17(5): 702–709.Google Scholar
  38. Van Grieken, René, and Anna Worobiec. 2011. X-ray spectrometry for preventive conservation. Pramana 76 (2): 191–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Vanoni, David, S. Stout, and A. Cosentino. 2014. ARtifact conservation: representation and analysis of spectroscopic and multispectral imaging data using augmented reality. In Proceedings of the 18th ICOMOS meeting, track 5: emerging tools in conservation science. Florence: Italy.Google Scholar
  40. Vornicu, Nicoleta et al. 2013. Analysis of mural paintings using in situ non-invasive XRF, FTIR spectroscopy and optical microscopy. X-Ray spectrometry, February.Google Scholar
  41. Walker, Gillian C., et al. 2013. Terahertz analysis of stratified wall plaster at buildings of cultural importance across Europe. In Optics for arts, architecture, and archaeology IV, eds. Luca Pezzati, and Piotr Targowski, 1–8 Proceedings of SPIE, Vol. 8790.Google Scholar
  42. Weiner, Stephen. 2010. Microarchaeology: beyond the visible archaeological record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Yahalom-Mack, Naama, Ehud Galili, Irina Segal, Adi Eliyahu-Behar, Elisabetta Boaretto, Sana Shilstein, and Israel Finkelstein. 2014. New insights into Levantine copper trade: analysis of ingots from the Bronze and Iron Ages in Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science 45: 159–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Center for Cyber-Archaeology & Sustainability, Qualcomm InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

Personalised recommendations