Mether 34.1953 Technical Analysis

Height 15.8, Width at mouth 10 cm, Width across handles 14.5 cm


Wood Species Identification

A small sample of wood was collected from mether 34.1953. A small amount of the sample was cut into thin slices known as 'sections', and these were mounted for examination using a scanning electron microscope (SEM). The scanning electron microscope allows us to resolve microscopic features in the wood that can help identify the particular species of tree that the spade was made from. 

The series of micro-features described in the images above indicate that this object is made from Birch (Betula pendula) wood.

FTIR spectral analysis showing comparison of sample collected from spade 284.1967 (blue), a reference sample for Birch ( Betula pendula ) (red)

FTIR spectral analysis showing comparison of sample collected from spade 284.1967 (blue), a reference sample for Birch (Betula pendula) (red)

FTIR Analysis

The sample of wood collected from spade 67.1947 was analysed using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). The spectral analysis above compares the sample from spade 67.1947 with a reference sample for European Birch wood (Betula pendula), and a sample for natural gypsum.

As the predominant component of plant fibres is cellulose, and other major constituents (hemicelluloses and pectins) are also polysaccharides, the FTIR spectra of different cellulosic plant materials are superficially similar and cannot be readily distinguished by eye. In addition, degradation of one or more components of the plant material e.g. through oxidation of the cellulose molecule, will influence the position and intensity of spectral peaks relative to non-deteriorated reference spectra.

There are, however, a number of fairly consistent spectral peaks indicative of cellulosic carbohydrate within a sample. The majority of cellulosic carbohydrates will exhibit a broad band from 3600–3100cm-1 arising from O-H stretching in bound or absorbed water. A broad band relating to C-H stretching from aromatic hydrocarbons at 3100-3300 cm-1 can be obscured or partially obscured by the broad O-H stretching band described previously. Additional peaks relating to the cellulose component of plant material include peaks for C-H stretching of methylene groups between 3000 and 2800cm-1, C-H deformation in cellulose and hemicellulose at 1371cm-1, C-H vibrations at 1319 cm-1, an intense peak at about 1030cm-1 relating to C-O bonding (this is typically a combined peak for cellulose and hemi-cellulose), and a shoulder at 897cm-1 relating to C-H bending. Additional shoulders at 1155cm-1 and 1105cm-1 on the C-O band at about 1030cm-1 relate to stretching and contraction (so called ‘breathing’) vibrations within the benzene rings, and glycosidic linkages between carbohydrate molecules respectively.

While there are variations in the intensity of some peaks in the spectra above, the wood sample from mether 34.1953 is a close spectral match for the Beech wood reference sample. There is no indication of post-collection contaminants in the spectra for mether 34.1953.