X-ray, synchrotron, and neutron diffraction analysis of Roman cavalry parade helmet fragment
Journal article, 2010
A partially corroded fragment of the neck guard of a Roman cavalry helmet excavated in the former military camp of Gerulata, a part of the Limes Romanus on the River Danube, was analysed by laboratory X-ray, synchrotron and neutron powder diffraction. The approximate phase composition determined by the neutron diffraction of the bulk, 82% (wt) of the copper alloy phase, 12 % (wt) of cuprite and 6% of nantokite indicate a significant degree of corrosion of the artefact. Elemental EDX analysis of cleaned surface showed that the chemical composition of the original alloy is 78 to 82 % (wt) of Cu and 21.4 to 16.5 % of Zn with minute amounts of Sn, Si and S. High contents of Cu and Zn with the negligible amount of Sn showed that the body of the helmet was made of brass and not of bronze as expected before. The amount of zinc in the copper alloy calculated from the refined lattice parameter agrees fairly well with the value determined by EDX. The most abundant phase in the synchrotron powder diffraction pattern of the corrosion products scrapped from the artefact is cuprite, but presence of atacamite, malachite, brochantite, nantokite, mixed Cu-Zn hydroxyl carbonates and probably also of simonkolleite (Zn5(OH)8Cl2·H2O) have been detected. In contrast, the X-ray pattern taken directly from the surface of the artefact is dominated by atacamite with some traces of malachite and quartz. Because the penetration depth of laboratory X-rays is in order of tens of microns, the phase analysis based only on a diffraction pattern taken from a surface can lead to erroneous conclusions concerning the phase composition of the patina.