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Ancient wood of the Acqualadrone rostrum: materials history through Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry and sulfur X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
Frank, P.; Caruso, F.; Caponetti, E. (2012). Ancient wood of the Acqualadrone rostrum: materials history through Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry and sulfur X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy. Anal. Chem. 84(10): 4419-4428. https://hdl.handle.net/10.1021/ac3001258
In: Analytical chemistry. American Chemical Society: Washington. ISSN 0003-2700; e-ISSN 1520-6882, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Frank, P.
  • Caruso, F.
  • Caponetti, E.

Abstract
    In 2008 the rostrum from an ancient warship was recovered from the Mediterranean near Acqualadrone, Sicily. To establish its provenance and condition, samples of black and brown rostrum wood were examined using sulfur K-edge X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS). GC/MS of pyrolytic volatiles yielded only guaiacyl derivatives, indicating construction from pinewood. A derivatized extract of black wood yielded forms of abietic acid and sandaracopimaric acid consistent with pine pitch waterproofing. Numerical fits to the sulfur K-edge XAS spectra showed that about 65% of the endogenous sulfur consisted of thiols and disulfides. Elemental sulfur was about 2% and 7% in black and brown wood, respectively, while pyritic sulfur was about 12% and 6%. About 2% of the sulfur in both wood types was modeled as trimethylsulfonium, possibly reflecting biogenic (dimethylsulfonio)propionate. High-valent sulfur was exclusively represented by sulfate esters, consistent with bacterial sulfotransferase activity. Traces of chloride were detected, but no free sulfate ion. In summary, the rostrum was manufactured of pine wood and subsequently waterproofed with pine pitch. The subsequent 2300 years included battle, foundering, and marine burial followed by anoxia, bacterial colonization, sulfate reduction, and mobilization of transition metals, which produced pyrite and copious appended sulfur functionality.

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