In This Issue
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
How textiles fossilize in archeological settings remains poorly understood. Cellulose textiles found buried next to metallic objects can undergo a mineralization process that facilitates preservation, but the precise mechanisms are unclear. Corentin Reynaud et al. (pp. 19670-19676) used a combination of analytical techniques to examine the preservation of textiles dating to the 3rd-2nd millennium BCE that were found buried near copper artifacts and sourced from excavations in the Near East and
... rchaeological collections of the Louvre Museum. The techniques included second harmonic generation microscopy, semiquantitative synchrotron X-ray microtomography, and nanoscale infrared imaging. The analysis uncovered three main stages of preservation through mineralization: water transports soil solutes and antimicrobial cations released by the corrosion of nearby metal to the textile fibers; the fibers absorb the cations and solutes, swell, and form an inorganic crust, resulting in cellulose degradation; and, finally, the fibers undergo silicification, which involves condensation of siliceous compounds. The findings provide insight into the process of mineralization at the nanoscale and how it aids the preservation of textiles that are millennia old. Additionally, the study demonstrates how imaging techniques, including second harmonic generation microscopy, can be used to investigate fossilization of materials, according to the authors. -H.J.