Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pumice as a Time Witness

23.06.2008
A chemist of Vienna University of Technology demonstrates how chemical fingerprints of volcanic eruptions and numerous pumice lump finds from archaeological excavations illustrate relations between individual advanced civilisations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thanks to his tests and to the provenancing of the respective pumice samples to partially far-reaching volcanic eruptions, it became possible to redefine a piece of cultural history from the second millenium B.C.

During the Bronze Age, between the years 3000 and 1000 B.C., the Mediterranean was already intensely populated. Each individual culture, whether it may be the Egyptian one, the Syrian one, or the Minoan culture from Santorini, has in most cases its own well-researched, chronological history.

However, the connection between these individual cultures and locations is often missing for the most part because more often than not, there is no correspondence or similar exchange that has taken place, has been preserved, or is comprehensible. It is so much more difficult to synchronize the individual cultures among themselves.

An international research program of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) called "SCIEM2000" is now opening new perspectives in this field. A research team of the Atomic Institute of the Austrian Universities under the leadership of Professor Max Bichler is engaged in identifying volcanic rocks from archaeological excavations. Georg Steinhauser, Project Assistant and Chemist at the Department of Radiation Physical Analysis and Radiochemistry of the Atomic Institute says: "Pumice is a foamy volcanic rock. Today, we know the rock that is floating on water mainly as a cosmetic remedy for instance for sole callus."

... more about:
»Santorini »archaeological »pumice »volcano

Pumice was also often used in ancient times as an abrasive and is repeatedly found in archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean Sea. Since volcanoes are not found everywhere, however, intense commercial activities related to this product were unleashed. "In Egypt, pumice was found in ancient workshops. In some of the excavations, there was even rock that still presented the right abrasion traces. They were used to polish sculptures, constructions, bronze objects, and so forth. Chemical tests enable us to trace back from which volcanoes the samples came," explains Georg Steinhauser.

Pumice in particular, just like the fine-grained volcano ashes, has a specific chemical composition, a characteristic "cocktail" on trace elements. Based on this, the researchers can generate a chemical fingerprint and can compare it to the data base the way it is done in criminology. Hence, pumices out of the Mediterranean volcanic centres as well as from archaeologically relevant pumice finds are being analysed. If the fingerprint of the find matches that of a rock type in the data base, then the origin can be undoubtedly determined.

So there is the immediate assumption that the Egyptians have surely ordered pumice from Greece. The researchers were able to determine these commercial relations by means of the instrumental neutron-activation analysis (INAA) by which the pumice samples in the research reactor are being irradiated with neutrons and subsequently measured with a gamma spectrometer. This way, the chemical fingerprint is generated with 25 characteristic main and trace elements. "We were able to discover that pumice as a commodity (presumably seaborne) covered distances of up to 2,000 km in the Mediterranean Sea.

The eruption of the volcanic island Santorini, about 1,600 B.C., represents a particular time indicator. It was so powerful, that the entire Minoan culture was obliterated. When we find today this layer of ashes respectively pumice in various archaeological excavations, this offers immediately a time marker and enables us to synchronize different cultures. This also enables us to determine which rulers were in power in different locations at a certain time," states Steinhauser. When a pumice lump from Santorini is found in an excavation, we can at least say that the Santorini volcano must have already erupted, and the time of the eruption corresponds consequently to the maximum age of the excavation discovery place.

For futher inquiries, you may contact:
Project Assistant (FWF) Mag. Dr. Georg Steinhauser
Atomic Institute of the Austrian Universities
Vienna University of Technology
Stadionallee 2, 1020 Vienna
Telephone: +43/1/58801 - 14189
Fax: +43/1/58801 - 14199
E-mail: georg.steinhauser@ati.ac.at
Spokesperson:
Mag. Daniela Hallegger
TU Vienna - PR and Communication
Karlsplatz 13/E011, A-1040 Vienna
Telephone: +43-1-58801-41027
Fax: +43-1-58801-41093
E-mail: daniela.hallegger@tuwien.ac.at

Werner Sommer | idw
Further information:
http://www.tuwien.ac.at
http://www.tuwien.ac.at/pr
http://www.tuwien.ac.at/index.php?id=7485

Further reports about: Santorini archaeological pumice volcano

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht For a chimpanzee, one good turn deserves another
27.06.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

nachricht New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins
27.06.2017 | Salk Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>