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II. Objets à dater : les méthodes appropriées

Advances and limitations of 14C dating in the field of heritage sciences

Avancées et limites de la datation par le radiocarbone dans le domaine des sciences du patrimoine
Laura Hendriks, Irka Hajdas, Nadim C. Scherrer, Stefan Zumbühl, Jens Stenger, Caroline Welte, Hans-Arno Synal and Detlef Günther
p. 111-117

Abstracts

In heritage sciences, the ability to obtain information about the origin and dating of cultural heritage objects is fundamental for placing an object into its historical context. Radiocarbon (14C) dating can help to identify the period during which a work of art was created by dating its constitutive materials. Such information can, however, only be obtained by removing a sample from the object, which is critical since art is irreplaceable and demands that the sampling be kept to a minimum. In this context, we propose a novel dating approach, which targets the natural organic binder of the pictorial layer as a new 14C candidate. In combination with spectroscopic techniques to ensure suitable sample selection, both canvas and paint samples were dated from three oil paintings. While not authenticating the paintings for belonging to a given artist, the 14C results from the baroque and neoclassical objects tend to align themselves with the purported attribution. The third object, attributed to the beginning of the 20th century’s modern expressionism movements, showcases the challenges in dating the natural organic binder owing to the presence of paraffin wax. The presented case studies showcase, how 14C dating of the natural organic binder may complement or offer alternate routes of study in assessing an object’s historical context. Moreover, the importance of material studies in the sampling step is enlightened as a prerequisite to access reliable 14C ages.

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Excerpt

Full text document will be published online on April 2023.

Outline

Introduction
Objects of study
Sample selection, material characterization, preparation and AMS measurements
Results and discussion
Dating precision limited by the shape of the radiocarbon calibration curve
Relined canvas preventing the dating of its support
Modern art and the increased use of synthetic material
Conclusion

First lines

Introduction

Since its discovery in the 1940’s, radiocarbon dating has been used to roll back the pages of history by constructing chronologies spanning the last 50’000 years. What started as a discovery in chemistry rapidly exceeded disciplinary boundaries, eventually catching the society’s interest with the identification of art forgery cases. The recent progress in expanding the 14C field to art research was linked to technological development resulting in a substantial decrease in the amount of material necessary for acquiring a 14C age. Generally, the code of ethics in cultural heritage sciences requires “minimal interventions” in the context of sampling. When permitted, 14C dating is generally focused on the materials used as supports. While the radiocarbon date, i.e. the year of plant harvest, and the date signed on the work often match, offsets ranging from 2 to 5 years may also be observed. However, recycling older supports to pretend an older appearance is a known modus ope...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Laura Hendriks, Irka Hajdas, Nadim C. Scherrer, Stefan Zumbühl, Jens Stenger, Caroline Welte, Hans-Arno Synal and Detlef Günther, Advances and limitations of 14C dating in the field of heritage sciencesTechnè, 52 | 2021, 111-117.

Electronic reference

Laura Hendriks, Irka Hajdas, Nadim C. Scherrer, Stefan Zumbühl, Jens Stenger, Caroline Welte, Hans-Arno Synal and Detlef Günther, Advances and limitations of 14C dating in the field of heritage sciencesTechnè [Online], 52 | 2021, Online since 14 April 2023, connection on 12 August 2022. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/techne/10278; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/techne.10278

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About the authors

Laura Hendriks

Researcher, formerly Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics and Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH-Zürich, Switzerland – currently Chemtech Institut, School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, HES-SO, Switzerland (Laura.Hendriks[at]hefr.ch).

Irka Hajdas

Senior Researcher, Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH-Zürich, Switzerland (hajdas[at]phys.ethz.ch).

Nadim C. Scherrer

Conservation Scientist, HKB – Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland (nadim.scherrer[at]hkb.bfh.ch).

Stefan Zumbühl

Conservation Scientist, HKB – Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland (stefan.zumbuehl[at]hkb.bfh.ch).

Jens Stenger

Senior Conservation Scientist, SIK-ISEA – formerly Swiss Institute for Art Research, Zurich, Switzerland – currently Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark (jest[at]GLYPTOTEKET.DK).

Caroline Welte

Senior Research Assistant, Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics and Geological Institute, ETH-Zürich, Switzerland (caroline.welte[at]erdw.ethz.ch).

Hans-Arno Synal

Professor of Physics, Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics, ETH-Zürich, Switzerland (synal[at]phys.ethz.ch).

Detlef Günther

Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH-Zürich, Switzerland (detlef.guenther[at]sl.ethz.ch).

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Copyright

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Creative Commons - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International - CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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