Distinguishing between calcites formed by different mechanisms using infrared spectrometry: Archaeological applications

Lior Regev, Kristin M. Poduska, Lia Addadi, Steve Weiner, Elisabetta Boaretto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


Infrared spectrometry is a well-established method for the identification of minerals. Due to its simplicity and the short time required to obtain a result, it can be practiced on-site during excavation using portable infrared spectrometers. However, the identification of a mineral may not be sufficient. For example, a lime plaster floor and a crushed chalk surface have a similar appearance and are composed of the same mineral - calcite. Here we exploit differences in the infrared spectra of geogenic, biogenic and pyrogenic calcites for the identification of each calcite type. The infrared calcite spectrum has three characteristic peaks in the region of 400-4000 cm-1, designated ν2, ν3, and ν4. When a calcite sample is ground, as part of the measurement preparation procedure, some grinding dependent changes will be revealed in the infrared spectrum. With additional grinding, the ν3 peak narrows and the heights of the ν2 and ν4 peaks decrease, when both are normalized to the ν3 height. By plotting the normalized heights of the ν2 versus the ν4 of several grindings of the same sample, a characteristic trend line is formed for each calcite type. The trend lines of geogenic calcites have the shallowest slopes and highest ν4 values when compared to pyrogenic calcites, which can be further divided to ash and plaster/mortar samples. This method can assist in distinguishing between the various calcites, and provide insights into homogeneity and preservation state of the calcitic materials in question.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3022-3029
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Ash
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Diagenesis
  • Infrared spectroscopy
  • Plaster
  • Pyrotechnology


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