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Preliminary Radiocarbon Analyses of Contemporaneous and Archaeological Wood from the Ansanto Valley (Southern Italy)

Manuela Capano, Fabio Marzaioli, Isabella Passariello, Olivia Pignatelli, Nicoletta Martinelli, Stefania Gigli, Ida Gennarelli, Nicola De Cesare, Filippo Terrasi

Abstract


The Ansanto Valley (southern Italy) is characterized by hydrothermal phenomena, with volcanic gas emissions arising from some vents. In the 1st millennium BC, a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Mephitis was built but later destroyed by landslides in the valley. During archaeological excavations in the 1950s, many items were found including wooden artifacts, preserved thanks to the imbibition and subsequent mineralization of the wood tissues due to the gas emissions. Radiocarbon dating of these objects is underway at CIRCE (Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage), in Caserta, Italy. Unfortunately, 2 main problems arise in dating these materials. The first is possible fossil dilution caused by the CO2 emitted from the nearby volcanic vents, which could affect the trees of the valley and also the archaeological materials. In order to determine the magnitude of the fossil dilution in the area, 14C measurements were performed on contemporaneous wood cored from 2 oak trees growing near the vents. 14C values measured in these samples confirmed the presence of a strong fossil dilution in the Ansanto Valley. The second problem is the restoration that the objects underwent during the last century (mostly by using modern organic substances). To investigate suitable pretreatment procedures for removing the restoration materials from the archaeological findings, contemporaneous wood was also analyzed. The wood of trees from the Ansanto Valley and from a distant village (unaffected by the Ansanto fossil dilution) were submitted to the same restoration process applied to the archaeological artifacts, followed by an “artificial weathering” process.  Some archaeological materials were also tested for the removal of restoration materials. We subjected the artificially aged trees and the archaeological samples to different chemical processes. Here, we present the results of these processes. Almost all methods turned out to be suitable for the contemporaneous wood, while the results for the archaeological samples remain uncertain. For this reason, more tests are needed, concerning the “artificial weathering,” the restoration, and the chemical procedure for removing the consolidation materials.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16150


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