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Use of stable and radiogenic strontium isotopes to trace the origin of woods: application to wood from shipwrecks

Abstract : In the Early Modern Age (16th - 18th centuries), the construction of ocean-going ships was paramount to the development of cultural encounters in what became the Age of Discovery and European expansion. Spain was one of the biggest forces of that time. The European project “ForSEAdiscovery” seeks answers in this context to the following key questions: Could Spanish forest resources sustain the increasing demand of timber, or were the wood imported from elsewhere? If Spanish forests were not the only wood supplier, how were the trade networks organized? This project will address these questions through a multidisciplinary and innovative training research program to improve the understanding of our historical past, our cultural heritage, and our knowledge of the use of resources for shipbuilding. The objective of this PhD thesis, taking part of this project, is to identify the provenance of the Iberian shipbuilding wood using geochemical tracers. The hypothesis is that trees growing on contrasted rocks and soils have specific geochemical signatures, which can be an indicator of geographic provenance. In this context, the Sr isotopic signature (87Sr/86Sr) was characterized in shipwreck wood samples and wood from living trees, soils and rocks collected from the Spanish forest stands indicated as potential source of wood between the 16th - 18th centuries. The δ88/86Sr signatures were also characterized in the samples. The rock types and ages were characterized at the selected sites and the link between the 87Sr/86Sr and δ88/86Sr in rocks, soils and trees was studied on the sampled Spanish sites. The local signature of Spanish potential sites was determined for provenance of wood. Our results indicate that 87Sr/86Sr isotope ratios in trees reflect the signature of the corresponding soil exchangeable pool while δ88/86Sr was shown to be affected by mass-dependent fractionation with trees taking up lighter (86Sr) isotopes, leaving the soil exchangeable pool enriched with the heavier isotopes (88Sr). This fractionation observed for oak trees, was not found in pines suggesting that the isotopic fractionation during tree uptake is species dependent. The contamination of wood from shipwrecks by seawater elements was identified. Marine Sr was found to be adsorbed on the wood or included in the precipitated minerals in the waterlogged wood. Several extraction experiments were tested and an adapted protocol was developed to extract the seawater elements and retrieve the original signature of the archaeological wood. We succeeded to validate an extraction protocol and retrieve the original signature of one wood sample. This result underline the potential and importance of a new method combining 87Sr/86Sr and δ88/86Sr values for future provenance studies on wood or other materials. However, our results also indicated that most of our shipwreck wood samples did not conserve their original Sr. Therefore, preconizations were suggested in order to extend the use of this tracer in future provenance studies on archaeological wood from shipwrecks
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Submitted on : Wednesday, October 31, 2018 - 12:11:33 PM
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  • HAL Id : tel-01909652, version 1


Fadi Hajj. Use of stable and radiogenic strontium isotopes to trace the origin of woods: application to wood from shipwrecks. Earth Sciences. Université de Lorraine, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017LORR0334⟩. ⟨tel-01909652⟩



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