Natural mineral pigments are significant in Aboriginal Australian culture, and applied to a variety of natural matrices such as wood and bark to create objects such as boomerangs and shields and bark paintings. Ochre (Fe-oxide pigment), is used for a variety of red, brown, orange and yellow colours and other natural mineral pigments such as kaolinite are used for white colours. Mixtures and applications of pigments present a challenging analytical problem, especially towards the non-destructive elemental analysis of mixed pigments on objects with a variety of shapes and sizes.
This presentation will describe our recent research into methods to characterize the complexity of Indigenous Australian ochre pigments. We have studied ochre from several known ochre sources around Australia by several techniques, including neutron activation analysis (NAA), X-ray fluorescence microscopy and near-IR spectroscopy. The combination of these techniques offers insight into the complex mineralogy and elemental composition of these natural materials.
Our results demonstrate the advantages of non-destructive analysis and sensitive methods towards the analysis of Aboriginal Australian objects. This presentation will cover some of our recent work including the first non-destructive study of natural pigments on Aboriginal Australian objects directly at a synchrotron, micro-characterisation of mineral pigments and provenance studies with Australian ochre.
Rachel Popelka-Filcoff is an Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Senior Research Fellow in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Flinders University.
Her research program uses radio-analytical and spectroscopic methods for the application to cultural, environmental and forensic questions. Her work is to the first comprehensive characterisation of Australian Aboriginal natural mineral pigments on cultural heritage materials, including ochre, by several advanced analytical methods. She also analyses uranium materials by a variety of methods for international nuclear forensics projects.
A significant portion of her research is based at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), as well as collaborations with other forensic and cultural heritage institutes and universities. Rachel holds a BA in Archaeology and Classics from Washington University in St Louis (USA), a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Missouri (USA), and completed a National Research Council postdoc at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, USA).
She has received awards for her research including the South Australian Tall Poppy of the Year in 2012, which recognises to top early career researcher in the state. She has also had her research profiled in several scientific and general media outlets such as Cosmos Magazine, Chemistry in Australia, and Chemistry World, and several radio interviews.
Rachel is the Vice President/President Elect of the Society for Archaeological Sciences, and is on the editorial board of Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. She is on the executive committee for the Early and Mid Career Research Forum for the Australian Academy of Science.
Wednesday 4 November, 8.00 pm Royal Society Room, Customs House Building, TMAG,
19 Davey St. Hobart (entry from Dunn Place)
All interested people are welcome. Free admission.