A fast, convenient way to determine the age of bones and ivories is important both in forensics and for classifying art objects in collections of art experts, restorers, art galleries and museums. Knowing the age of elephant tusks is also essential because there are many date-specific regulations of ivory trade. Radiocarbon dating is the standard method used to determine the age of organic materials, but it is expensive, time consuming, and damages the sample in the process. Raman spectroscopy is sensitive to rotational and vibrational molecular transitions, and also intermolecular vibrations. Therefore, it can provide information about sample make up, such as proteins and minerals, as well as detect spectral signatures associated with structural changes in molecules. Since Raman spectroscopy identifies the molecular bonds present in a sample, it is often used to determine its chemical composition. Bones and ivories contain two primary components: collagen and bioapatite. As the protein collagen deteriorates with time, its Raman signal decreases. The ratio of collagen-to-bioapatite peaks, therefore, is smaller in the older samples compared to the younger ones, providing a basis for sample dating. We employed Raman spectroscopy to non-destructively determine the age of several elephant tusk fragments. We have also used it to identify ivory imitations made of vegetable and plastic materials. Such materials have entirely different chemical composition, and their spectra are easily distinguished from those of bone and ivory. Peak fitting was employed to determine collagen and bioapatite components.
Anna Sharikova, Lubna Peerzada, and Alexander Khmaladze, "Assessing the age of animal bones and ivories by Raman spectroscopy," Proc. SPIE 10497, Imaging, Manipulation, and Analysis of Biomolecules, Cells, and Tissues XVI, 104971B (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 31, 2018; Published: 20 February 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2291315.
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