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Contribution Poster

Budker INP - 2nd and 3rd floors

Mercury in ancient organic materials (Noin-Ula, Mongolia): EDXRF, SRXRF and micro-SRXRF analysis


  • Valentina ZVEREVA

Primary authors



Recently the anomalously high content of copper in ancient hairs in royal burials of Xiongnu (I B.C. – I A.D., Northern Mongolia) was discovered. Detailed investigation of all types of organic findings from the burials was performed by X-ray fluorescent technique with synchrotron radiation (SRXRF), X-ray microtomography, X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XANES and EXAFS) and electron microscopy. The results revealed the exogenous source of copper in ancient hairs and allow to exclude copper poisoning in lifetime [1]. There were 40 hair plaits in ancient burial site. Mercury was detected in all hair samples (up to 1200 ppm). High content of Hg may be caused by the burial environment as well as the accumulation in lifetime. Information, which can elucidate the probable cause of such a high Hg content in hairs, can be helpful in reconstruction of culture, life and technologies of ancient people. The unique archaeological material demands nondestructive analytical methods, as SRXRF analysis and X-ray microanalysis (µSRXRF).
SRXRF methodology for Hg determination in archaeological hair samples, mercury concentration in metallic objects from the burial, and information on cross-section distribution of Hg in hair strand (µSRXRF) allow to determine probable source of mercury in ancient hairs.

[1]. V. Trunova, V. Zvereva, N. Polosmak, D. Kochubey, V. Kriventsov and K. Kuper. Investigation of Organic Materials From the ‘Royal’ Burials of Xiongnu (Noin-Ula, Mongolia) by Srxrf and XAFS Methods. // Archaeometry. – 2015. – V. 57. – N. 6. – P. 1060-1077. DOI: 10.1111/arcm.12109.