Raman spectroscopy in archaeology and art history

Raman spectroscopy in archaeology and art history 
H G M Edwards and J M Chalmers (eds)
Cambridge, UK: RSC | 2005 | 476pp | ?139.00 (HB) | ISBN 0854045228
Reviewed by Ann Brysbaert

Raman spectroscopy in art and archaeology is on the up. Since 2001, a biannual conference has been dedicated to the topic and has attracted chemists, physicists, mineralogists, crystallographers, archaeologists, art historians, conservators, material and technology scientists and forensic and conservation scientists. Not many other topics would enthuse such a wide variety of people from both humanities and science into disseminating their findings, discovering strands for collaborative research and working so productively at an interdisciplinary level. 

This book is the first publication dedicated to the application of Raman spectroscopy in archaeology and art history and certainly will not be the last.  

The first section of the book introduces the technique of Raman spectroscopy to the scientist and to the interested reader who possesses a basic grasp of physics and chemistry. These chapters form a ’way in’ to seeing the use and advantages the technique can have in the sector of archaeology and museums. 

The second section is the largest and arguably shows a bias towards paintings and dyes, but this is understandable considering how much care is needed in their handling. Their analysis by Raman spectroscopy shows the technique’s huge potential and success rate.

The next section covers ceramics, glass/glaze, textiles, waxes and others, demonstrating the wide variety of applications for the technique.  

The best part of the book in my view is the last section which is a beautiful set of papers relating to the identification of jewellery and precious stones, and an extremely useful reference database of 74 minerals. 

Even though there are some application areas that are not covered (building materials such as stone, mosaics, certain corrosion products on metals, and organics), this book provides a wealth of information and an up to date bibliography.