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Anatomy, Cell Wall Structure and Topochemistry of Water-Logged Archaeological wood aged 5,200 and 4,500 years

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Evaluating the state of deterioration of water-logged archaeological wood is necessary in order to select treatments for its conservation and storage, particularly in the case of valuable archaeological artefacts. For this purpose archaeological wood of ash (Fraxinus sp.) and oak (Quercus sp.) buried in water-logged conditions at prehistoric settlements on the Ljubljansko barje (Ljubljana moor), Slovenia, aged approx. 5,200 and 4,500 years, was investigated by means of light microscopy (LM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and cellular UV-microspectrophotometry (UMSP). LM and TEM revealed that the ash wood aged 5,200 years was the least preserved. The secondary walls of fibres, vessels and parenchyma cells were considerably thinner than in normal wood, indicating distinct degradation. TEM and UMSP additionally revealed strong delignification of the remaining parts of the secondary walls of all cell types. The compound middle lamellae appeared structurally intact, but had lower UV-absorbance than normal wood of the same species. The cell corners were topochemically unchanged, as shown by high analogue UV-absorbance. The UV-absorbance maxima at a wavelength of 278 nm corresponded to those of hardwood lignins. The oak heartwood was generally better preserved than the ash wood. Within each species, the 4,500- year-old samples generally appeared better preserved than those 5,200 years old.


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