Optical spectroscopy applied to the analysis of medieval and post-medieval plain flat glass fragments excavated in Belgium

Publication date 2010
B-Phot Authors Wendy Meulebroeck, Hilde Wouters, Andrea Ceglia, Hugo Thienpont
DOI 10.1117/12.853660
W. Meulebroeck et al., “Optical spectroscopy applied to the analysis of medieval and post-medieval plain flat glass fragments excavated in Belgium,” in OPTICAL SENSING AND DETECTION, 2010, vol. 7726.
Abstract Window glass fragments from four Belgian sites were studied and for a set of eighty-five samples the UV-VIS-NIR transmission spectra were analyzed. This collection contains historical and archaeological finds originating from religious buildings namely the Basilica of Our Lady of Hanswijk in Mechelen (17(th)-20(th)c) and the Church of Our Lady in Bruges (16(th)-20(th)c) as well as from secular buildings as a private house/Antwerp (18(th)-1948) and the castle of Middelburg-in-Flanders (1448-17(th)c). All sites contain material on the hinge point between the medieval and the industrial tradition. The variation in composition of the analyzed samples can be explained by the use of different glassmaking recipes, more specifically the use of different raw materials. The composition of window glass differs essentially in the type of flux, using a potash rich fluxing agent until the post-medieval times and industrial soda from the 19(th) century onwards. A second difference concerns the iron impurities in the glass. For all fragments a clear compositional classification could be made based on the iron concentration. These conclusions were based on archaeological research and drawn after submitting samples to expensive, complex, time-consuming and destructive chemical analyzing methods. Our study indicates that similar conclusions could be made applying the proposed optical based methodology for plain window glass. As a whole, the obtained results make it possible to cluster the fragments for a particular site based on three different sensing parameters: the UV absorption edge, the color and the presence of characteristic absorption bands. This information helps in identifying trends to date window glass collections and indicating the use of different raw materials, production technologies and/or provenance.
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