A multi-analytical study of ancient Nubian detached mural paintings

March 27, 2020


A multi-analytical study of ancient Nubian detached mural paintings


Noemi Proietti, Valeria Di Tullio, Federica Presciutti, Gennaro Gentile, Brunetto Giovanni Brunetti, Donatella Capitani




Microchemical Journal


A multi-analytical study was carried out on materials, techniques, and state of conservation of a set of detached
Nubianmural paintings, originally belonging to the 10th century pictorial cycle of the church of Sonqi Tino, Sudan
(70 km south of the Egypt–Sudan border). These paintings represent one of the very few examples of Christian
Nubian pictorial cycles preserved from the wide defacement experienced by these artifacts with the building
up of the Aswan Dam. Non-invasive NMR depth profiling was used to preliminary study the hydrogen rich layers
of the detached mural paintings. By this technique, it was possible to perform a virtual coring with a reconstruction
of the complex series of layers that characterize the investigated artifacts. Then, micro-sampling and crosssection
examination by SEM-EDX, micro-Raman, micro-FTIR, and 27Al and 29Si MAS NMR, allowed us to shed
light onmaterials and technology exploited by theMedieval Nubian painters, with the identification of pigments
and composition of the original primer, obtaining also information on layering of materials used by conservators
during the detachment of the paintings and their transfer to a newsupport. The combination of preliminary noninvasive
investigation with a set of micro-invasive analytical techniques allowed us to set up a protocol for a
satisfactory decoding of the multilayered complex systems that characterize the detached paintings




Raman imaging microscopy, NMR stratigraphy NMR spectroscopy SEM-EDS Raman and IR spectroscopy Detached mural paintings Egyptian pictorial technique