Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Archeological Samples

Noninvasive examination of 2000 year old wood

Roman ships found in a river port in Oberstimm, Bavaria and fir wood sample from a pole from that port.

Archeological samples are often precious and unique and cannot easily be examined without destroying them. Accordingly, noninvasive imaging techniques are an important means of investigating historic specimen. While CT is often the method of choice, especially wood samples that have been soaking in water for several hundred years can well be examined with MRI due to their high water content.

Gradient echo (left) and spin echo images with two echo times from the fir wood sample, with a spatial resolution of 50 × 50 × 500 μm3.

The CUTAWAY study uses non-destructive imaging techniques to perform a comparative analysis of different conservation techniques for waterlogged, wooden archeological samples. More than 70 pieces of oak or fir wood from two archeological sites were scanned at 14.1 T with very high spatial resolution before conservation. A comparison to images acquired after conservation will illustrate to what extent the conservation has affected the integrity of the sample.

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