The conservation of the fossils of Ariño (Teruel) is the focus of multidisciplinary research by several Aragonese institutions
The Fundación Conjunto Paleontológico de Teruel- Dinópolis (FCPTD), the Escuela Superior de Conservación y Restauración de Bienes Culturales de Aragón and the Instituto de Nanomateriales y Nanociencia de Aragón (INMA), a joint institute of the CSIC and the University of Zaragoza, are carrying out research on the mechanisms of alteration of the sulphides contained in the fossils. This study is part of the project called PYRITEDINOSAUR and within the MOLAB (Mobile Laboratory) programme, which is part of the IPERION HS platform (Integrating Platforms for the European Research Infrastructure on Heritage Science). This initiative is financed with European funds and has an infrastructure of mobile equipment accompanied by specialised technicians for non-destructive in situ measurements in cultural heritage.
The multidisciplinary team in charge of developing the study is made up of researchers specialised in different subjects (chemistry, palaeontology and restoration) from the three Aragonese scientific institutions. Thanks to this R+D+i project, it will be possible to analyse the mechanism of alteration of the pyrite that contains the fossils and to define an optimal conservation treatment.
To this end, for several days, technicians from MOLAB France, specifically from the National Centre for Research and Restoration of French Museums -with their portable XRD-XRF and LIBS equipment- and from MOLAB Cyprus, from the Research Centre for Science and Technology in Archaeology and Culture and from the Andreas Pittas Art Characterisation Laboratories -with 3D Scanner- are analysing, through various non-invasive analyses, different fossils from Ariño in the premises of the Dinópolis Foundation (Aragon Museum of Palaeontology). These analyses will help in the characterisation of the elements and molecular characterisation of the mineral phases of the fossils and the alteration products from the oxidation of the pyrite. In addition, they will make it possible to investigate possible structural changes in the fossils and to obtain a graphic document of the possible elements affected.
The objectives of the project include: a comprehensive study of the pyrite oxidation processes in the fossils under different environmental conditions; the evaluation of the effectiveness of the use of certain resins that are used in palaeontological preparation for emergency cases, or in situ, and combining them with other resins that are already being used; and, finally, defining possible warning parameters to optimise preventive conservation treatments on the fossils.
The palaeontological excavations of the Dinópolis Foundation at the site of the Santa María de Ariño Mine began in 2010 and in 2011 conservation and restoration work began on the fossils in the laboratory. During these years, treatments based on physical-mechanical cleaning have been applied, avoiding the use of aqueous media, in order to avoid possible oxidation reactions of the pyrite present in some of the fossils of this exceptional site.
Furthermore, this action is part of the research of the FOCONTUR Research Group, funded through the Department of Science, University and Knowledge Society of the Government of Aragon and the research of the Dinosaur Palaeontology Unit of Teruel, which is funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation of the Government of Spain. It also has the support of the Department of Education, Culture and Sport of the Government of Aragon.