Neutron Analysis

Last week there were piles of stories in the press about the utility of the ISIS Neutron scanning technology for various matters archaeological. Now Science Daily has come out with a piece that is closer to our purview with a report on plans to scan some bronze artifacts from a couple of high-status Roman pit burials in Kent, in the hopes of determining whether they were manufactured locally or imported from Italy.

Dixit Dana Goodburn-Brown (ancient metals specialist):

Our experiments will hopefully aid us in characterising different Roman metalworking practices and perhaps recognising the distinction between imported south Italian goods and high standard copies produced by skilled local craftsman. These artefacts represent a time of great change in Britain – they appear shortly after the Romans arrived in this country, and may represent locals taking on cultural practices of these ‘newcomers …”

Dixit Andrew Taylor (ISIS director)

“For these rare and highly-valued objects, analysis with neutrons can give fantastic insight. Neutrons are a very powerful way to look at matter at the molecular level and they give unique results that you can’t easily get with any other technique. The measurements are extremely delicate and non-destructive, so the objects are unharmed by the analysis and can be returned to the museums unscathed.

The neutron beams we have at ISIS are a very versatile research tool and we’re always keen to help researchers answer a broad range of questions. Here we realised that we could take the same analysis methods we developed to look at parts of aircraft and power plants and use them to help archaeologists understand how ancient objects were traded and manufactured.”

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