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Minerals 2018, 8(6), 255; https://doi.org/10.3390/min8060255

A Mosaic of Colors: Investigating Production Technologies of Roman Glass Tesserae from Northeastern Italy

1
Department of Cultural Heritage, University of Padova, Piazza Capitaniato 7, 35139 Padova, Italy
2
Department of Geosciences, University of Padova, via Giovanni Gradenigo 6, 35131 Padova, Italy
3
CNR-ICMATE, Corso Stati Uniti 4, 35126 Padova, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 May 2018 / Revised: 8 June 2018 / Accepted: 12 June 2018 / Published: 16 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Mineralogical Applications for Cultural Heritage)
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Abstract

In the current study, a set of 60 glass tesserae from two disrupted Roman mosaics located in Pordenone and Trento (northeastern Italy) are analyzed, with the aim of investigating the coloring and opacification techniques, with a focus on the causes of specific textural features. All the available colors and textures were selected for archaeometric analyses, in order to guarantee the full characterization of both assemblages and comparisons between the two sites. The applied analytical protocol comprises micro-textural and preliminary chemical characterizations of the tesserae by means of OM and SEM-EDS, mineralogical analysis of the opacifiers by XRD and chemical analysis of the glassy matrices by EPMA; in addition, on specific tesserae, micro-Raman spectroscopy, FORS, and EPR were also performed to clarify the type of opacifer, coloring ion and oxidation state, respectively. Results show that both the base-glass and the coloring/opacification techniques identified are consistent with the presumed Roman dating of the mosaics. All the tesserae are natron-based and chemically comparable with major Roman compositional groups, except for red samples. Antimony-based opacifiers are identified in most of the blue, turquoise, white, yellow and green tesserae, and copper-based opacifiers in the red ones; cobalt and copper are the most frequent ionic colorants used to obtain various shades of blue, turquoise and green colors. Despite the general comparability of both assemblages with the published data on glass tesserae coeval in age, the present study shows differences in the technological solutions used for obtaining the same color, and less common coloring and opacification techniques in three samples from Pordenone. The banded textures of some tesserae were also carefully investigated, and multiple factors influencing the changes in color (different distribution or relative abundance of opacifiers, crystal size, micro-texture, chemical composition of glassy matrix) are identified. View Full-Text
Keywords: Roman glass tesserae; micro-texture; coloring; opacification; Italy; SEM; XRD; EPMA; production technology; archaeometry Roman glass tesserae; micro-texture; coloring; opacification; Italy; SEM; XRD; EPMA; production technology; archaeometry
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Maltoni, S.; Silvestri, A. A Mosaic of Colors: Investigating Production Technologies of Roman Glass Tesserae from Northeastern Italy. Minerals 2018, 8, 255.

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