Binder remnants in historical mortars represent a record of the connection between the raw materials that enter the kiln, the process parameters, and the end product of the calcination. Raman microspectroscopy combines high structural sensitivity with micrometre to sub-micrometre spatial resolution and compatibility with conventional thin-sectional samples in an almost unique fashion, making it an interesting complementary extension of the existing methodological arsenal for mortar analysis. Raman spectra are vibrational fingerprints of crystalline and amorphous compounds, and contain marker bands that are specific for minerals and their polymorphic forms. Relative intensities of bands that are related to the same crystalline species change according to crystal orientations, and band shifts can be caused by the incorporation of foreign ions into crystal lattices, as well as stoichiometric changes within solid solution series. Finally, variations in crystallinity affect band widths. These effects are demonstrated based on the analysis of three historical mortar samples: micrometric distribution maps of phases and polymorphs, crystal orientations, and compositional variations of solid solution series of unreacted clinker grains in the Portland cement mortars of two 19th century castings, and the crystallinities of thermal anhydrite clusters in a high-fired medieval gypsum mortar as a measure for the applied burning temperature were successfully acquired.
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