Alum-treated wooden artefacts from the Oseberg collection display a great deal of morphological, structural and compositional inhomogeneity. Thus, an in-depth understanding of chemical processes underlying their degradation requires consideration of a variety of local environments. In addition to alum, sources of inorganic compounds include metal parts, corrosion products of which can migrate into the surrounding wood. In order to characterise the inorganic compounds a range of local environments, samples from several locations in a selection of composite objects have been investigated by X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM)-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). We have found that corrosion of iron rods used in reconstruction has formed iron(II) sulfates, which have migrated into the alum-treated wood to form sulfates containing combinations of potassium, aluminium, iron(II) and iron(III) cations. Reactions of alum were also evident from the presence of alunite in some samples. Areas with significant abundances of zinc sulfates, zinc sulfide and elemental sulfur were also detected. These results provide a first-time window into the complex array of inorganic species that can be present in such composite alum-treated objects.
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