In this work, analytical and chemical imaging tools have been applied to the study of a gilded spur found in the medieval necropolis of Erenozar (Bizkaia, Spain). As a first step, a lot of portable equipment has been used to study the object in a non-invasive way. The hand-held energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence equipment allowed us to characterize the artefact as a rare example of an iron matrix item decorated by means of a fire gilding technique. On the other hand, the use of a portable Raman system helped us to detect the main degradation compounds affecting the spur. Afterwards, further information was acquired in the laboratory by analysing detached fragments. The molecular images obtained using confocal Raman microscopy permitted us to characterize the stratigraphic succession of iron corrosions. Furthermore, the combined use of this technique with a scanning electron microscope (SEM) was achieved owing to the use of a structural and chemical analyser interface. In this way, the molecular characterization, enhanced by the magnification feature of the SEM, allowed us to identify several micrometric degradation compounds. Finally, the effectiveness of one of the most used desalination baths (NaOH) was evaluated by comparing its effects with those provided by a reference bath (MilliQ). The comparison proved that basic treatment avoided any side effects on the spur decorated by fire gilding, compensating for the lack of bibliographic documentation in this field.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Raman spectroscopy in art and archaeology’.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
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