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Investigation, Revival and Optimisation of Traditional Mediterranean Colouring Technology for the Conservation of the Cultural Heritage

Final Report Summary - MED-COLOUR-TECH (Investigation, Revival and Optimisation of Traditional Mediterranean Colouring Technology for the Conservation of the Cultural Heritage)

Colouring or painting with natural organic materials has been fundamental in art and intrinsic to the cultural identity of the Mediterranean area, since antiquity. The reconstruction and revival of traditional manufacturing processes for natural organic colorants, as well as of dyeing procedures or painting techniques is essential for the preservation of the Mediterranean cultural heritage.

The objectives of the 'Investigation, revival and optimisation of traditional mediterranean colouring technology for the conservation of the cultural heritage' (MED-COLOUR-TECH) project included:

1. Establishment of an analytical methodology for dyestuff / pigment identification on selected art objects of the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean area and formulation of corresponding recommendations on conservation.
2. Systematic analysis and reconstruction of ancient colouring techniques, typical of civilisations developed in the Mediterranean area, to elucidate the local ancient colouring technology.
3. Dissemination of natural organic pigments and corresponding colouring components, currently not available in the market, to the scientific community, interested target groups and general public.

In order to achieve this the activities included:

- collection of historical data (e.g. ancient dye recipes), sources of natural dyestuffs and art objects of the Mediterranean area;
- production (chemical synthesis) of colouring components (standards) of the dyestuffs of interest;
- identification of natural organic dyes contained in art objects;
- production and characterisation of natural organic pigments based on ancient recipes;
- reconstruction of dyeing recipes;
- optimisation and standardisation;
- pilot (industrial) production of natural organic pigments;
- recommendations for conservation strategies;
- creation of an encyclopaedia for natural organic pigments of the Mediterranean area.

MED-COLOUR-TECH reinforced the competitiveness of EU and Mediterranean countries at multiple levels: scientifically, by the development of new diagnostic and identification methodologies, with respect to natural organic dyestuff identification found in art objects. The project reinforced European organisations and companies with the production of new materials (dyes and colouring components) that are currently in great demand by entities, active in the area of cultural heritage conservation, pharmacology, plant pathology and analytical chemistry. Protocols for the production of natural organic pigments have been formulated, according to ancient recipes. MED-COLOUR-TECH contributed to the elucidation of colouring technologies developed by several civilisations of the Mediterranean area.

One scientific result included the collection of traditional dyeing recipes (codified in modern chemical terminology) and recipes for production of organic pigments for more than 40 dyestuffs. The histories of use, the geographical distributions and photos of the plant, insect and mollusc dyestuff sources have been collected. Dyeing recipes have been summarised and described using modern physicochecmical terminology.

Another outcome was the creation of the database for natural dyes and pigments in the Mediterranean area which is available on the web page of the project: and in compact discs (CDs), which can be provided for free to any interested individual or entity.