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LIBS reveals Minoan dagger history

17 Jun 2002

Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy gives archaeologists an insight into ancient Minoan technology.

From Opto & Laser Europe

Archaeologists in Greece have discovered new details about Minoan technology, thanks to a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument. The LIBS system, developed at the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (FORTH) in Crete, is designed to analyse archaeological objects on location.

Using LIBS revealed traces of silver on a wooden dagger-handle found on the island of Pseira. FORTH's Demetrios Anglos said that this was a surprising result, as it suggests that the technology for silver-on-bronze decorative coating was available during the late-Minoan period (around 1600 BC).

The dagger rivet is the first of its kind to be found on Pseira, although similar objects have been found in Mycaenean shaft graves on the Greek mainland. To carry out the analysis, an Nd:YAG laser operating at the fundamental 1064 nm wavelength was set to emit 15 ns pulses of 3-5 mJ per pulse.

The LIBS instrument has also been used to analyse ancient manuscripts, although for these sensitive documents milder pulse energies of 1-2 mJ per pulse and energy densitites of around 5-20 J/cm2 are used, to minimize any damage to the samples.

Michael Hatcher is technology editor of Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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