Ethiopian Christian Paintings from a Physico-chemical Perspective: The Wall Paintings of Yemrehanna Krestos, Petros Paulos and Abune Yemata Guh Churches
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- Institutt for kjemi 
Summary of thesis: During the past decades there has been an increasing application of scientific analytical methods in the area of conservation of cultural heritage objects and to address art historical and archaeometric questions. Heritage science and conservation science cover knowledge not only from the natural sciences and technology, but also humanities and art. The combination of these perspectives provides useful information about production of materials and technologies, provenance of raw materials and the objects themselves, authentication and dating. The insight acquired from the diverse disciplines contributes to the traditional art historical studies and well-informed conservation interventions. Ethiopia harbours a rich and unique Christian cultural heritage of importance not only to Ethiopians but also to humanity as the country represents one of the oldest states with the traditional Christian practices preserved and passed down over the centuries. This is witnessed by the intangible and tangible heritage continuously recognized as world heritage by UNESCO. Paintings in the form of murals, icons and manuscript illuminations are found among the numerous traditions associated with the Christian heritage. Nevertheless, there have been few studies on them and mostly from an art historical standpoint. Even fewer are the investigations from a physico-chemical perspective, and those that have been carried out are on the paintings in museums abroad. The conception of this thesis, and its presence here and now, is therefore a wish to contribute to fill this void. In this thesis wall paintings from three Ethiopian Churches dating from different periods are investigated using physico-chemical techniques ranging from light microscopy and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy to synchrotron-based X-ray diffraction. All together, microscopic, spectroscopic, mass spectrometric and chromatographic methods were used. These complementary methods allowed identification of pigments, binders and artistic techniques employed. An investigation normally commenced with close-up visual examinations, at times using digital microscopes, and on-site non-destructive analysis with a portable X-ray fluorescence analyzer. This was followed by laboratory-based investigations on micro-samples collected. Synchrotron-based techniques from a large-scale accelerator facility have also been employed. As such this study represents the first exhaustive examination, using both on site and laboratory based instrumental techniques, of Ethiopian paintings situated in Ethiopia. In the thesis the major analytical techniques used are presented in a short review form highlighting their developments, advantages and drawbacks, as well as applications in the investigations of diverse paintings. An account of the nature of the fieldwork is also given. Though a number of murals, icons and illuminated manuscripts have been investigated, the emphasis in this thesis is the analysis of mural paintings of Yemrehanna Krestos Church using a portable X-ray fluorescence analyser, and physicochemical characterizations of the wall paintings of Petros Paulos and Abune Yemata Guh Churches using a combination of analytical techniques. These church paintings represent different periods and provenances. The studies aim to provide a slice of information from the scarcely studied tradition of Ethiopian painting and initiate further investigations. The current work adds to the knowledge about materials and artistic techniques of Ethiopian paintings. It extends the pool of data for comparative studies of painting materials and artistic techniques across periods and provenances within the country and beyond with other painting traditions. Moreover, the experience gained in the investigation of the complex, heterogeneous, and often highly degraded painting samples was found to be useful in characterization of other cultural heritage objects and archaeological materials.