Archaeological ceramic amphorae from underwater marine environments: Influence of firing temperature on salt crystallization decay

Paula López-Arce, Ainara Zornoza-Indart, Luz Gomez-Villalba, Elena Mercedes Pérez-Monserrat, Mónica Alvarez de Buergo, Gustavo Vivar, Rafael Fort

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17 Scopus citations


Non-desalinated and desalinated fragments of Iberian, Italic and Tarraconensian amphorae sherds, found in different underwater marine environments, were compared to determine the decay caused by salt crystallization. Polarizing light and fluorescence optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy coupled to energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, ion chromatography and mercury intrusion porosimetry tests were conducted on the samples. Non-desalinated samples exhibit a variety of signs of degradation, especially those samples fired at lower temperature. Sherds fired at higher temperatures have a lower surface area and less connected porosity, which entail a lower absorption of soluble salts containing water and eventually less decay than those fired at lower temperatures. The composition and texture reached with the firing temperature is a key factor on salt crystallization decay and hence on the durability of these artefacts. This should be taken into account during desalination procedures that have to be optimized in order to be successful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2031-2042
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the European Ceramic Society
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the GEOMATERIALES ( S2009/MAT-1629 ) and CONSOLIDER-TCP ( CSD2007-0058 ) programmes and by a JAE-PreDoc fellowship program and the European Social Fund FSE 2007–2013 and a Jae-Doc CSIC contract. Thanks also to the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) Research Group “Alteración y Conservación de los Materiales Pétreos del Patrimonio” (Alteration and conservation of heritage stone) (Ref. 921349). We also thank Iván Serrano for the XRD and MIP analyses, Blanca Gallardo for the ion chromatography analyses, Eugenio Baldonedo for his assistance with the SEM-EDS analyses at the ICTS (Centro Nacional de Microscopia Electronica) and María Ascensión Barajas for the thin sections preparation at the Faculty of Geology (UCM).


  • Amphorae
  • Decay
  • Firing temperature
  • Salt crystallization
  • Underwater ceramics


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