Neutron imaging revealed the secrets of this goldplated medieval pendant

News Summary

  • “The object and, above all, the locking mechanism have been severely damaged by centuries of corrosion, and opening it would mean destroying it irrevocably.”Using neutron imaging preserved the pendant while revealing five small reliquary packages of silk and linen holding bone splinters.
  • So some things easily visible with neutron imaging may be challenging or impossible to see with X-ray imaging (and vice versa).The techniques can be complementary and are especially useful for imaging archaeological or paleontological artifacts because they don't damage or destroy the original object.
  • Neutron tomography is not as sensitive to the density of materials as X-ray and gamma ray imaging, and unlike those methods, neutrons interact strongly with very light elements like hydrogen.
  • The findings were published in the interim meeting of the International Council of Museums-Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC) Metals Working Group.Neutron tomography, works much the same way as X-ray and gamma ray imaging methods, except it uses a neutron beam.
  • For instance, in December 2021, researchers combined X-ray microtomography—which involves using X-rays to make cross-sections of a physical object—and neutron tomography to create a highly detailed 3D model of a 365-million-year-old ammonite fossil from the Jurassic period, revealing internal muscles that have never been previously observed.
  • Researchers from the Technical University of Munich scanned the pendant using neutron tomography, among other methods, and discovered it contained bone splinters—likely religious relics, i.e., the purported bones of saints.
Enlarge/ Scientists used neutron tomography to peer inside a medieval pendant, revealing five reliquary packages. 0 with 0 posters participatingIn 2008, archaeologists excavating a medieval refus [+3907 chars]