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Elsevier, Analytica Chimica Acta, 1(654), p. 26-34

DOI: 10.1016/j.aca.2009.07.007



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Characterisation of archaeological waterlogged wood by pyrolytic and mass spectrometric techniques

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This paper is available in a repository.

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Two techniques based on analytical pyrolysis and mass spectrometry, direct exposure-MS (DE-MS) and pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS), were used to characterise waterlogged archaeological wood and to study degradation patterns of wood in aqueous environments. The two techniques were applied to samples from the excavation of the Site of the Ancient Ships of Pisa San Rossore in Pisa (Italy), and data were compared to those relative to native sound wood of the same species (pine, elm, beech). Both the methods result valuable in the analysis of ancient wood artefacts, avoiding the long wet-chemical procedures that are commonly used in wood analysis, and allowing us to use a minimal sample size. DE-MS achieves a global mass spectral fingerprint of lignin and polysaccharides pyrolysis compounds in few minutes, and the results have been interpreted with the support of principal component analysis (PCA) of mass spectra. Py-GC/MS permits detailed molecular analysis of pyrolysis compounds and highlights some chemical modifications of lignin in archaeological samples, as demethylation of both guaiacyl and syringyl lignin units. Both the techniques demonstrate consistent loss of polysaccharides in archaeological wood.