Material Culture and Heritage (CERVITRUM)

Researcher in charge: Mª Ángeles Villegas Broncano

The group is focused on archaeometric research and integral conservation of historic materials. One of the scientific lines of Archaeometry is the application of chemical-physical characterization techniques to study Cultural Heritage materials. Through these techniques it is possible to determine their technology of production, their raw material characteristics, and their state of conservation, which comprises the study and diagnosis of deterioration, degradation, and corrosion processes of such materials, either as a consequence of natural weathering (in air, in soil and in water) or by means of accelerated aging processes in the laboratory. The group is also focused on the development of preventive conservation strategies against future alteration and degradation of cultural items for a better valorization and dissemination of the Historic and Cultural Heritage.

They are carried out on three lines of research:

1) Chemical-physical characterization of inorganic historic materials (glasses, ceramics, metals, mortars, etc.).
The chemical-physical characterization techniques are able to solve questions concerned with the history of technology in general and, particularly, with processes of production and technological change, as well as with provenance of raw materials and origin of historic materials. Thus it is possible to extract a larger amount of historical and technological information from materials, which is not attainable by traditional means of historical research.

2) Study and diagnosis of deterioration and degradation processes.
This study is aimed at understanding the interaction of materials with a given environment or environmental conditions which have allowed its conservation to the present. This group studies the processes produced by natural weathering, either by atmospheric, aqueous or terrestrial media; as well as those processes produced by accelerated aging and their modelization in the laboratory.

3) Preventive conservation strategies.
This goal is focused on the development of strategies against future alteration and degradation of historic materials for a better valorization and dissemination of the Historic and Cultural Heritage. Preventive conservation is undertaken by means of environmental sensors based on the sol-gel methodology (patented by the own group). The design, preparation, and study of these sensors are accomplished to evaluate the pH and other environmental parameters, such as temperature and relative humidity. Moreover, the group develops electronic devices of measurement to carry out environmental evaluations.

The research activity of the group is linked to the Heritage Conservation Laboratory (LACOPAT) of the Institute of History, which brings together the necessary equipment and instrumentation to carry out the experimental part of the research. The linkage of the group to this laboratory is permanent from 2015.

Website of the research group