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Raman Investigations to Identify Corallium rubrum in Iron Age Jewelry and Ornaments

Abstract : During the Central European Iron Age, more specifically between 600 and 100 BC, red precious corals (Corallium rubrum) became very popular in many regions, often associated with the so-called (early) Celts. Red corals are ideally suited to investigate several key questions of Iron Age research, like trade patterns or social and economic structures. While it is fairly easy to distinguish modern C. rubrum from bone, ivory or shells, archaeologists are confronted with ancient, hence altered, artifacts. Due to ageing processes, archaeological corals lose their intensive red color and shiny surface and can easily be confused with these other light colored materials. We propose a non-destructive multi-stage approach to identify archaeological corals amongst other biominerals used as ornament during the central European Iron Age with emphasis on optical examination and mobile Raman spectroscopy. Our investigations suggest that the noticeably high amount of misidentifications or at least uncertain material declarations existing in museums or even in the literature (around 15%) could be overcome by the proposed approach. Furthermore, the range of different materials is higher than previously expected in archaeological research. This finding has implications for contemporary concepts of social structures and distribution networks during the Iron Age.
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Sebastian Fürst, Katharina Müller, Liliana Gianni, Céline Paris, Ludovic Bellot-Gurlet, et al.. Raman Investigations to Identify Corallium rubrum in Iron Age Jewelry and Ornaments. Minerals, MDPI, 2016, 6 (2), pp.56_1-23. ⟨10.3390/min6020056⟩. ⟨hal-01360066⟩

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