70745 - Archaeometry

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student will have the basic knowledge of archaeometry as well as the knowledge of several physical methods for the characterization of materials of interest in the Cultural Heritage field. In particular, it will be able to: - discriminate between different dating methods, both relative and absolute, employing the techniques of C14, radioactive decay, thermoluminescence, spontaneous fissions, ESR; - planchemical and physical non-destructive analysis (XRF, PIXE, PIGE, neutron activation); - understand the results of diagnostic techniques such as radiography, X-ray computed tomography, nuclear magnetic resonance, multispectral imaging and termography.

Course contents

The course is divided into two teaching modules (28 hours each one): one is held by Dr. Maria Pia  Morigi and the other one by Prof. Mariangela Vandini.

Module 1 contents

  • Classification of the most important physical methodologies applied to Cultural Heritage diagnostics.
  • Acquisition of digital images and main techniques for digital image processing. 
  • Optical techniques to obtain three-dimensional topographies of surfaces: photogrammetry, Time-Of-Flight (TOF) laser scanning, profilometry.
  • Infrared thermography for building diagnostics.
  • Introduction to PIXE and PIGE techniques with specific case-studies. Neutron activation analysis.
  • X-ray Fluorescence (XRF): basic notions and examples of measurements on polychrome works of art.
  • X-ray and neutron digital radiography and tomography: theoretical outline and applications in the field of Cultural Heritage.

Module 2 contents

  • Scientific methodologies for the study of the archaeological heritage: non-invasive analysis and analysis which require sampling.
  • Methodologies for the observation and classification of archaeological materials: microscopy, spectroscopy, diffrattometry.
  • Main dating techniques (dendrochronology, thermoluminescence and C14).
  • Provenance studies.

The course includes laboratory activities with the direct involvement of the students in the realization of experience and the interpretation of the results:

  • Sampling and sample preparation
  • Optical microscopy
  • Scanning electron microscopy and microanalysis 
  • X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy 
  • FTIR spectroscopy
  • X-ray diffractometry
  • Thermal analysis 
  • Acquisition of digital images in different spectral bands with a dedicated CCD camera 
  • Radiography and X-ray computed tomography


- M. Milazzo, N. Ludwig, Misurare l'arte. Analisi scientifiche per lo studio dei beni culturali, Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2010.

- L. Paolillo, I. Giudicianni, La Diagnostica nei Beni Culturali. Moderni Metodi di Indagine, Loghìa, Napoli, 2009.

- S. Volpin, L. Apollonia, Le analisi di laboratorio applicate ai beni artistici policromi, Padova, Il Prato, 1999.

- E.Ciliberto, G. Spoto (editors), Modern Analytical Methods in Art and Archaeology, New York, Wiley Intescience, 2000.

- A. Castellano, M. Martini, E. Sibilia (a cura di), Elementi di archeometria. Metodi fisici per i beni culturali, Milano, Egea, 2002.

- A. Aldrovandi, M. Picollo, Metodi di documentazione e indagini non invasive sui dipinti, ed. Il Prato, Padova 1999.

- D.C. Creagh and D.A. Bradley Editors, Radiation in Art and Archaeometry, Elsevier Science B.V., 2000.

- F. Casali, X-ray and Neutron Digital Radiography and Computed Tomography for Cultural Heritage", in "Physical Techniques in the Study of Art, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage", D.C. Creagh and  D.A. Bradley Editors, Elsevier 2006.

Teaching materials in the form of pdf files will be available on the web site: https://virtuale.unibo.it 

Teaching methods

Lectures and laboratory practice.

Assessment methods

The final examination consists of a discussion on the topics covered in class and aims to assess the achievement of the main learning objectives of the course, namely:

- knowledge of the tools to achieve a technological characterization of finds and artefacts (analysis of the constituent materials, execution technique, provenance studies, authenticity and dating);

- ability to perform a classification of technical-conservative issues based on preliminary observations in the laboratory and to evaluate the applicability of scientific methods for the analysis of materials and decay products.

In particular, the oral examination aims to verify the theoretical knowledge acquired during the course and the ability to plan the bases of a diagnostic investigation for a conservative intervention.The student's ability to learn how to operate with confidence and autonomy within the secondary literature and the possession of a language and forms of expression appropriate to the discipline will be assessed. The acquiring of an organic view of the topics discussed in class, along with their critical consideration, a demonstration of mastery and mature expression will be recognized with good marks or excellence. A mostly mnemonic knowledge of the subjects, non-articulated synthesis and analysis skills, and/or a language not always appropriate lead to marks ranging from discreet to sufficient. Important knowledge gaps, inappropriate use of language, lack of orientation within the boundaries of the topics and the bibliographic materials proposed by the course will inevitably lead to a barely sufficient grade or a negative rating.

Teaching tools

For classroom lessons video-projector and PC are available.

For laboratory activities the following instrumental facilitiesare available:

- tools and materials for sampling and sample preparation
- optical microscopy
- multispectral imaging systems
- reflectance spectrometry in the visible VIS-RS
- portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometryEDS-XRF
- X-ray diffraction (XRD)
- thermal analysis TG-DTA
- infrared spectroscopy FT-IR
- scanning electron microscopy and microanalysis SEM-EDS
- acquisition system for radiography and X-ray Computed Tomography

Office hours

See the website of Maria Pia Morigi

See the website of Mariangela Vandini