Specimens from underwater archaeological excavations have rarely been analysed by Raman spectroscopy probably due to the problems associated with the presence of water and the use of alternative techniques. The discovery of the remains of the Royal Navy warship HMS Swift off the coast of Patagonia, South America, which was wrecked in 1770 while undertaking a survey from its base in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, has afforded the opportunity for a first-pass Raman spectroscopic study of the contents of several glass jars from a wooden chest, some of which had suffered deterioration of their contents owing to leakage through their stoppers. From the Raman spectroscopic data, it was possible to identify organic compounds such as anthraquinone and copal resin, which were empirically used as materia medica in the eighteenth century to treat shipboard diseases; it seems very likely, therefore, that the wooden chest belonged to the barber-surgeon on the ship. Spectra were obtained from the wet and desiccated samples, but several samples from containers that had leaked were found to contain only minerals, such as aragonite and sediment.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Raman spectroscopy in art and archaeology’.
One contribution of 14 to a theme issue ‘Raman spectroscopy in art and archaeology’.
- Accepted June 6, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.