University of Bologna


Degree Programme Director
International Master Degree Course
Science for the Conservation-Restoration of Cultural Heritage (SCORE) University of Bologna
Department of Chemistry “G.Ciamician”

The University of Bologna is a national and international point of reference in the field of science and technology applied to cultural heritage. It is one of the few universities in Italy that offers global training in the conservation of cultural heritage. At the Ravenna Campus, bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes offered by the departments of Cultural Heritage, Civil Engineering and Chemistry train main actors involved in the process of safeguarding cultural and environmental heritage, such as the conservator, the restorer, the conservation scientist.

The master’s degree Science for the Conservation-Restoration of Cultural Heritage is an international programme of the Department of Chemistry forming conservation scientists, an expert in heritage materials properties and in the application of the main diagnostic techniques providing information on material constitution and state of conservation with competences ranging in the fields of chemistry, physics, biology, geology, and informatics applied to cultural heritage.

Professor of Landscape Architecture
Coordinator, PhD in Cultural and Environmental Heritage Dipartimento di Beni Culturali

The Ravenna Campus also offers an interdisciplinary “PhD Programme in Cultural and Environmental Heritage” availing academic contributions from 7 associated departments (Architecture; Chemistry; Legal Studies; Biological Geological and Environmental Sciences; Civil Chemical Environmental and Materials Engineering; Physics and Astronomy; Computer Science and Engineering). In the frame of the PhD programme, two curricula point at alternative career orientations. The curriculum in “Cultural and Environmental Heritage: Memory, Protection, Rights” focuses on themes such asthe historical contextualization of tangible and intangible heritage and goods, environment and landscape, architecture and city, human and environmental rights, governance and management of common goods.

Dipartimento di Chimica “Giacomo Ciamician”
Settore scientifico disciplinare: CHIM/12 CHIMICA DELL’AMBIENTE E DEI BENI CULTURALI

The international curriculum in “Science and Technologies for Cultural Heritage”, focuses on technological innovations related to the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage and is intended for the qualification of ‘conservation scientists’.


The earliest migration of Homo sapiens in southern Europe: understanding the biocultural processes that define our uniqueness

Studying the transition from Neandertal to H. sapiens is pivotal to understanding the establishment of humankind today. STEFANO BENAZZI
Director of the Laboratory of Osteoarchaeology and Paleoanthropology (BONES Lab) Department of Cultural Heritage


X-ray Computed Tomography for Cultural Heritage

3D X-ray Computed Tomography: a new diagnostic tool available both in the laboratory and on-site Cultural Heritage

Laboratorio di Fisica Applicata ai Beni Culturali (CAMPUS RAVENNA, Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia “Augusto Righi”)


Sustainability and cultural heritage: green gels for the cleaning of works of art

Green gels for cleaning work of art: towards sustainable restoration practices. ROCCO MAZZEO
Dipartimento di Chimica “Giacomo Ciamician”
Settore scientifico disciplinare: CHIM/12 CHIMICA DELL’AMBIENTE E DEI BENI CULTURALI



RESOLUTION will create what all of us right now can only dream of: a more precise and detailed timeline of our own story, the story of Human evolution.

Università Degli Studi Di Bologna – Dipartimento Di Chimica



The earliest migration of Homo sapiens in southern Europe:
understanding the biocultural processes that define our uniqueness

The project SUCCESS is organized into 5 work packages with a Research Team composed of 7 postdoctoral fellowships and 3 PhD students.

The first work package aims to collect data from 6 key archaeological sites across Italy where the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition is preserved.

The second work package deals with paleoenvironmental reconstruction by high-resolution pollen analysis.

The third work package aims to analyze the faunal and human remains using traditional and cutting-edge methods, such as paleoproteomic techniques, virtual anthropology, biomechanical and strontium isotopic analysis.

The fourth work package aims to study the cultural items, such as lithic materials, bone tools and ornaments.

Work package 5 synthesizes all prior work packages using statistical methods to understand the mechanism underpinning biocultural change and adaptation at different scales.

The Project is going to produce the following outcomes:

  1. Reconstruct ecological settings and environmental changes from Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic
  2. Establish the time of the arrival of modern humans in Southern Europe, the pattern of their dispersal and their interactions with Neandertals
  3. New understanding of behavioural patterns displayed by the last Neandertals in comparison to modern humans
  4. New protocols for taxonomic discrimination between the two groups
  5. Important insights on mobility patterns
  6. Understand the timing, patterns and causes of the Neandertal demise

Results obtained from Southern Europe will be crucial for understanding the Middle-to-Upper Paleolithic Transition in the rest of Europe and developing a statistical model of cultural change that can be applied to other regions to generate testable hypotheses, ultimately providing an example for future integrative scientific studies in the field of human evolution.

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X-ray Computed Tomography for Cultural Heritage

The first step of a CT analysis is the acquisition of a series of two-dimensional radiographic images of the object viewed from many different directions. Subsequently, these radiographs are processed with sophisticated mathematical algorithms, in order to obtain a stack of cross sectional images of the investigated sample, the so-called “slices”.

Afterwards, the entire volume of the object can be visualized by using a 3D rendering software, which provides a digital 3D grayscale representation of both its internal structure and surface. Moreover, it is possible to manipulate the 3D rendering, by making virtual cuts on the reconstructed volume or selectively removing some layers to reveal additional information or digitally color-coding different constituent materials.

Thanks to these peculiarities, in recent years CT has been applied more and more frequently to Cultural Heritage diagnostics. However, due to the large variety of size and composition that is typical of Cultural Heritage, different X-ray sources, detectors and setups are necessary to adapt to various case studies. Moreover, it might be difficult to move the works of art from the place where they are kept. For the previous reasons, we developed several CT scanners that are

flexible, dismountable and easy to transfer. In particular, our research group stands out on the national scene for being the first to use our CT systems in major Italian museums and restoration centers.

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Sustainability and cultural heritage:
green gels for the cleaning of works of art

Cleaning of artwork is particularly challenging since it requires to selectively remove a very thin layer of few microns on the surface of the object preserving the inner layers such as an aged varnish on paintings.

Agar, a polysaccharide obtained from algae, has been proposed for the production of a polar gelling system capable of removing proteinaceous coatings, but without the use of water. Deep eutectic solvents can be used instead of water to prevent damages on water sensitive surfaces. DESs are considered green solvents thanks to their high level of biodegradability, their low cost, the high availability of raw materials and the possibility to easily synthetise them with green procedures. The agar gel obtained with Choline chloride and urea was tested for the removal of proteinaceous coatings or degraded glue from paintings and movies respectively.

PHB , obtained from the metabolism of bacteria, has been coupled with green solvents such as gamma valero lactone, ethyl lactate or dimethyl carbonate to form a gelling material which is able to remove terpenic or acrylic resins from different types of substrates i.e. mobile paintings, immovable paintings, paintings on paper, metallic objects.

A more apolar formulation with the use of biodiesel as cleaning agent is suitable for the removal of highly hydrophobic coating such as waxes.

The different formulation of gels can be applied directly on the work of art, let to act for a few minutes and after their removal the swelled coating can be removed with cotton swabs. All the materials are highly biodegradable so that their disposable is not critical.

The application of the combined material is not only easier since from a mechanical point of view it is more flexible than the normal gel, but it was noted that the performance of the system is improved and that the micro roughness of the combined material allows a more controlled release of the solvents and a more efficient peel off of the external coating.

The performance of the cleaning methods is evaluated by the scientists with advanced analytical techniques. First, the removal efficacy is evaluated using optical and spectroscopic microscopes. Moreover, possible side effects of the treatments are also considered such as morphological modifications of the treated surface or presence of residues of the cleaning agents which may cause long term effects.

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Since Libby won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960, radiocarbon dating has been the most widely used method in the field of archaeology. Radiocarbon is formed in the upper atmosphere, incorporated into all living organisms, and decays over time. The Beta decay of 5730 years of 14C is unique, and it is in this way that, when we measure the amount of Radiocarbon left in an organic sample, we can determine the time of death, up to 55,000 years. the problem is that the amount of Radiocarbon in the atmosphere varied over time. Hence the radiocarbon clock needs to be calibrated to an independent calendar scale in order to obtain calendar age. This is what we call the calibration curve.

For the past 14,000 years, the calibration curve is based on trees and it is highly precise. For older periods, where trees were not measured, the precision of the calibration curve drops dramatically. The further we travel into the past, the less accurate radiocarbon dates become.

This situation means that the radiocarbon clock has always ticked with two hands, but to increase the accuracy of the time intervals that mark the course of our history, we need to add a third one and to do so, we need to combine different scientific disciplines and different points of view. The project, RESOLUTION, synthesizes botany, physics, and humanities in a highly innovative way to obtain a precise timeline of human evolution.

I am researching, recovering, and studying fossil trees in Europe, which allow us to precisely reconstruct the paleo-environment. The second step is to incorporate a brand new method from physics, with this we can link the radiocarbon measurements from our fossil trees to 10Be in the annual layers of Greenland Ice Cores because these 2 cosmogenic isotopes are highly correlated.

In this way, we can start building new curve pieces that will give us very precise ages. However, it must be said that this method needs a very high precision, a very small 14C error, less than 300 years. This is not so easy because typically, from the analysis of a sample of 42 thousand years, gave errors of around 1.700 years. Now we have been able to obtain for 42 thousand years sample a 14C error which never had been achieved before of less than§ 300 years. This provides outstanding resolution for European Prehistory.

In this context the advanced radiocarbon clock will bridge the gap on the most debated questions in Palaeolithic archaeology, gaining what all of us, right now, just dream of: the precision of time and the definition of details for the past events in Human Evolution.

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