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Techniques and materials used in Hellenistic mosaics, with a particular focus on the glassy materials used in mosaics from Delos (Greece).

Principal Researcher: Francesca Licenziati (Université Paris-Ouest, France)

The Hellenistic Age represents a period of great experimentation for what concerns the techniques and the materials used in mosaic production. In this period the artisans started to use artificial materials, like faience, glass and ceramic, in order to supplement the colours of the stones. As their main objective was to imitate the naturalistic effect of contemporary paintings, techniques like opus tessellatum and vermiculatum has been introduced and developed.

The mosaics from Delos represent one of the most relevant collections of the Hellenistic Age and they are dated between 130 and 88 BC, the period during which the city experienced its greatest development. They are approximately three hundred fifty and they have been made using different techniques such as: tesselatum, vermiculatum, signinum, segmentatum and others.

The presence of vitreous materials (glass and faience) has been observed in several mosaics of Delos and while glass tesserae have been employed in a variety of colours (green, blue, violet, red and yellow), faience tesserae were used only in the shades of green, bleu and grey.

The main aim of this archaeometric research on the vitreous tesserae of Delos mosaics is to determine the nature, quantity and provenance of the used raw materials, and to investigate their manufacture technologies. In order to accomplish this study, an archaeometric research is planned and it will be articulated in two phases, depending on the authorizations of the Cycladic Ephorate and of the Greek Ministry of Culture.

in situ non-invasive analysis using portable instruments

– in laboratory analysis on samples.

The research will also include the building up of a database of publications regarding the archaeometric analysis on the artificial materials used in mosaics and it will carry on in collaboration with Mr Bonnerot, Fellow ESR02 at University of Cyprus.