Micro-XRF at Historic England, Portsmouth

Three intense and exciting days (20th-22nd June 2022) saw the team of Meaningful materials in the khipu code busy and excited about using the XRF at Historic England as part of the IPERION-HS-funded project.

Hosted by the materials scientist Francesca Gherardi and the wonderful team of Historic England – Archaeology, the visit aimed to map the khipu samples, especially in the search for possible mordants and auxiliaries possibly associated with differently dyed threads.

Marei Hacke (left) and Francesca Gherardi (right) evaluating the XRF map at Historic England
XRF Tornado M4 on the left
Photo CCBY by Lucrezia Milillo

Historic England in Portsmouth possesses a Bruker XRF Tornado M4 which can perform the scan in a vacuum. This allowed us to detect also very light elements – such as Aluminium, which is known for its mordanting properties.

However, khipu samples are extremely tiny and volatile, therefore they had to be covered with a protecting net in order to prevent them to be blown away when the air was pumped back in the vacuum chamber.

Lucrezia Milillo organizing the khipu samples
Photo CCBY by Marei Hacke

Watch this video to see more about our work at Historic England – Archaeology in Portsmouth.