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Colorful Indications of (Ex)Change.

Project description

From pigments to a dynamic context of ancient life

One of many researched fields in archaeology is polychromy. This is an indicator of provenance of subjects and of the production of pigment. Research of used colorants can reveal many more historical processes of ancient cultures and substantially enrich our historical heritage. The EU-funded BUNT project will analyse pigments such as cinnabar and Egyptian blue in the context of cultural, political and economic exchanges and dynamics in Noricum, a Celtic kingdom under the Roman Empire. A novel multidisciplinary investigation, this study will unveil procurement ways, organisation, production technologies and knowledge transfer, helping us to understand our ancient heritage better.


Archaeometric research on ancient polychromy can reveal how past cultures exchanged commodities and knowledge. This raises fundamental questions relevant to cultural heritage research, to our understanding and present-day perception of ancient economic dynamics, technology and art. I have analyzed a number of colorants, with the aim of determining material provenance. The more of these analyses that are carried out, the more the need for an integrated synopsis of the current state of knowledge becomes pressing. My overall research goal is to test the potential of ancient pigments for indicating various forms of (ex)change. I hypothesize that the information on provenance and production processes gained from scientifically analyzing, archaeologically and historically contextualizing ancient pigments will indicate procurement patterns, technology and organization of production, and transfer of knowledge and culture in a novel way. To test this, I will investigate the origin of raw materials and the product quality of cinnabar and Egyptian blue pigments in unprecedented detail with a multidisciplinary approach: The impurities in pigment mineral phases can indicate production processes and thus perhaps organization of production. Trace elements and isotope ratios vary depending on the geology of a source area. This allows excluding a less likely provenance. For BUNT, I will set the material analysis in context with the discussion of the cultural, political and economic dynamics in Noricum after it became part of the Roman Empire – an area with abundant local resources and the potential for local production of pigments, and a highly interesting time of cultural change. BUNT is innovative, multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral, which will advance my versatility and independence in research, and which is in line with the ambitions communication and dissemination strategies; it builds, at its core, an open pigment database and aims to promote European cultural heritage.


Net EU contribution
€ 186 167,04
1010 Wien

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Ostösterreich Wien Wien
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 186 167,04