Norwegian conservators are conducting tests at HZB to halt the degradation of one of the most important cultural assets from the Viking Age
Researchers from the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, working closely with Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), have been studying ancient wooden Viking artefacts at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II. The conservators expect this non-destructive method will yield crucial insights into the degradation of these unique works of art. The wooden artefacts come from a Viking grave found in 1904 at Oseberg near the Oslo fjords. The Oseberg finding is considered one of the most important testimonies of the Viking Age and is one of the most frequently visited sights in Norway. Yet, they are now in serious danger of collapse because the wood fibres in the artefacts are disintegrating. The reason is the preservation method widely used a hundred years ago in Scandinavia, by which the artefacts were treated. Now, chemists and conservators of the project Saving Oseberg, which is receiving international support, are trying to save these national treasures of Norway.
By performing tests at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II at HZB, the conservators from Oslo have examined the condition of the wood to figure out what strategies will work to preserve them in future. “In order to halt the degradation process of the cultural treasures, we have to analyze the chemical processes the preservative has caused in the wood very precisely,” says Dr. Hartmut Kutzke who, as chemist at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, is leading the conservation project.
The Norwegian scientists used the infrared beamline IRIS for their studies. Employing very high resolution infrared spectroscopy, the researchers have discerned what chemical changes the material has undergone as well as the composition of the overlapping layers of lacquer that have been applied over its hundred-year history of restoration. “The method works completely non-destructively.
The wood fibres of the richly decorated ceremonial wagon are disintegrated because of the preservation method.
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