Excavations 2018

This is a temporary blog for presenting the excavations of 2018 at Perdigões. Posts from 2011 to 2017 are still available.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

0272 - Investigando o uso de cinábrio / Researching the use of cinnabar

Mandíbula com cinábrio do Sepulcro 1 dos Perdigões

A colaboração entre o Programa Global de Investigação dos Perdigões e a Universidade de Bradford continua a dar frutos, agora na investigação sobre o uso de cinábrio. Aqui fica o resumo de mais um trabalho.

The collaboration of the Global Program of Research of Perdigões and the Bradford University continues to deliver, now in the research of the use of cinnabar. Here is the abstract of one more work.

Cinnabar:  a pigment for the living, a preservative for the dead.
Cinnabar is a naturally occurring mineral found worldwide and is the main source of the toxic element mercury. Studies from Tomb II, Perdigoes in the Alentejo region of Portugal, describe evidence of chronic mercury exposure in four individuals from the Late Neolithic / Chalcolithic period (Emslie et al. 2015). However, the analytical equipment is expensive, not readily available and the process destructive.
An epistemological review suggested that the use of field portable x-ray fluorescence equipment could be used as a non-destructive technique, both on the human remains and the burial substrate, to identify the presence of mercury and other heavy metals.
The results support the validity of the method, recognising the presence of mercury, as initially reported, but additionally we discovered high levels of manganese and nickel. Further research is required to explain the presence of manganese and nickel, which may be related to diet, and to increase the sample size to refine the techniques employed.
This abstract relates to the final year research project completed by David Taylor, University of Bradford, in partial fulfilment of a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology.

Emslie, S. D., Brasso, R., Patterson, W. P., Carlos Valera, A., McKenzie, A., Maria Silva, A., Gleason, J. D. and Blum, J. D. (2015) Chronic mercury exposure in Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic populations in Portugal from the cultural use of cinnabar. Scientific reports 5, 14679.

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