72751 - Characterization of Stone Materials

Course Unit Page


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

Good health and well-being Quality education Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student will acquire knowledge of the main types of natural stones of ancient and modern employment. The student will be able to: -recognize the most common minerals and their physical properties; -identify and classify the most important rock types employed in historical and modern buildings; -be acquainted with main pottery classes and artificial stones (bricks, mortar); -define the mineralogical and geochemical composition and deterioration products of ceramic and stone materials; -be acquainted with petrographic methods used for the characterization of stone materials.

Course contents

Introduction to mineralogy: short introduction to the most important rock-forming minerals (quartz, feldspars, micas, pyroxenes, amphiboles, calcite-dolomite, gypsum, pyrite, clays). 

Natural stone materials of ancient and modern employment (granites, marbles and stones). Short introduction to processes of rock formation. Classification and systematic description of igneous (plutonic and volcanic) rocks. Classification and description of metamorphic rocks. Classification and description of sedimentary (clastic, limestones) rocks. Systematic exam and description of marbles used in the classical antiquity.

Production and employment of ceramic materials (pottery and bricks). Binder, mortar, plaster, concrete and mosaics. Decay morphologies and deterioration mechanism of stones. Sampling, cataloguing and elaboration of a diagnostic project. Mineralogical-petrographic study of natural and artificial stone materials through polarizing optical-microscopy (PLM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) end EDS microanalysis, thermogravimetry-differential thermal analisys (TG-DTA), (DTG). Evaluation of experimental mineralogical and chemical data and their graphic representation.

The course is completed with outdoor laboratories in Ravenna and Bologna with observation of the use of stones (both antique and contemporary).


Primavori P. (1999): Planet Stone. Zusi Ed., Verona. ISBN 88-900067-1-4

Orton C., Tyres P., Vince A. (1993): Pottery in archaeology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 798-0-521-44597-9

Hodges H. (2009): Artifacts. Duckworth London. ISBN 978-0715623169

Klein C., Philpotts A.R. (2016): Earth Materials. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1316608852.

Ingham J.P. (2013) Geomaterials under the microscope. Academic Press

Teaching methods

The course consists of lectures and laboratory exercises. The teaching activity will be developed in collaboration with sector’s specialists of the Bologna University and will be supplemented with visits at monuments.

Assessment methods

The final exam consists of a paper dealing with a topic covered in class, aimed at the evaluation of the theoretical knowledge acquired during the course, the possession of a specific language and the acquisition of an organic vision of the topics covered in class.
Good or excellent grades can be achieved by students who demonstrate a critical knowledge of the subject, who are able to apply theoretical concepts to practical examples and make use of an appropriate language. Mostly mnemonic knowledge, limited abilities of synthesis and analysis and imprecise language lead to grades ranging from discrete to sufficient. Important gaps, inappropriate language, lack of an overview of the topics covered will inevitably lead to a barely adequate grade or to a negative evaluation.

Teaching tools

LCD projector for Power Point presentations. Collections of rocks samples and thin sections of rocks, bricks, mortars and ceramics. Transmitted Polarized Light Microscopes, photomicroscope with digital camera, XRD, XRF and SEM-EDS. Thermogravimetry-differential thermal analisys (TG-DTA), (DTG).

Office hours

See the website of Giorgio Gasparotto

See the website of Giuseppe Maria Bargossi