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Minerals 2016, 6(2), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/min6020056

Raman Investigations to Identify Corallium rubrum in Iron Age Jewelry and Ornaments

1
Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie, Institut für Altertumswissenschaften, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Schillerstraße 11, Mainz 55116, Germany
2
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université Paris 06, CNRS, UMR 8220, Laboratoire d‘archéologie moléculaire et structurale (LAMS), 4 Place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France
3
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Université Paris 06, CNRS, UMR 8233, De la molécule au nano-objets: réactivité, interactions et spectroscopies (MONARIS), 4 Place Jussieu, 75005 Paris, France
4
Rathgen-Forschungslabor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Schloßstraße 1 a, Berlin 14059, Germany
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Steve Weiner
Received: 31 December 2015 / Revised: 23 May 2016 / Accepted: 1 June 2016 / Published: 15 June 2016
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Abstract

During the Central European Iron Age, more specifically between 600 and 100 BC, red precious corals (Corallium rubrum) became very popular in many regions, often associated with the so-called (early) Celts. Red corals are ideally suited to investigate several key questions of Iron Age research, like trade patterns or social and economic structures. While it is fairly easy to distinguish modern C. rubrum from bone, ivory or shells, archaeologists are confronted with ancient, hence altered, artifacts. Due to ageing processes, archaeological corals lose their intensive red color and shiny surface and can easily be confused with these other light colored materials. We propose a non-destructive multi-stage approach to identify archaeological corals amongst other biominerals used as ornament during the central European Iron Age with emphasis on optical examination and mobile Raman spectroscopy. Our investigations suggest that the noticeably high amount of misidentifications or at least uncertain material declarations existing in museums or even in the literature (around 15%) could be overcome by the proposed approach. Furthermore, the range of different materials is higher than previously expected in archaeological research. This finding has implications for contemporary concepts of social structures and distribution networks during the Iron Age. View Full-Text
Keywords: corals; shells; Raman spectroscopy; biogenic carbonates; carotenoids; polyenes; color fading; material degradation; archaeology corals; shells; Raman spectroscopy; biogenic carbonates; carotenoids; polyenes; color fading; material degradation; archaeology
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Fürst, S.; Müller, K.; Gianni, L.; Paris, C.; Bellot-Gurlet, L.; Pare, C.F.; Reiche, I. Raman Investigations to Identify Corallium rubrum in Iron Age Jewelry and Ornaments. Minerals 2016, 6, 56.

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