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 A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
21.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Scientists from the MSU studied new liquid-crystalline photochrom

21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>