Migliore, Luciana; Perini, Nicoletta; Mercuri, Fulvio; Orlanducci, Silvia; Rubechini, Alessandro; Thaller, Maria Cristina
Three ancient documents solve the jigsaw of the parchment purple spot deterioration and validate the microbial succession model
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  • Scientific reports, 2019-02-07, Vol.9 (1), p.1623-1623
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Nature Open Access
The preservation of cultural heritage is one of the major challenges of today's society. Parchments, a semi-solid matrix of collagen produced from animal skin, are a significant part of the cultural heritage, being used as writing material since ancient times. Due to their animal origin, parchments easily undergo biodeterioration: the most common biological damage is characterized by isolated or coalescent purple spots, that often lead to the detachment of the superficial layer and the consequent loss of written content. Although many parchments with purple spot biodegradative features were studied, no common causative agent had been identified so far. In a previous study a successional model has been proposed, basing on the multidisciplinary analysis of damaged versus undamaged samples from a moderately damaged document. Although no specific sequences were observed, the results pointed to Halobacterium salinarum as the starting actor of the succession. In this study, to further investigate this topic, three dramatically damaged parchments were analysed; belonging to a collection archived as Faldone Patrizi A 19, and dated back XVI-XVII century A.D. With the same multidisciplinary approach, the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS, Illumina platform) revealed DNA sequences belonging to Halobacterium salinarum; the RAMAN spectroscopy identified the pigment within the purple spots as haloarchaeal bacterioruberin and bacteriorhodopsine, and the LTA technique quantified the extremely damaged collagen structures through the entire parchments, due to the biological attack to the parchment frame structures. These results allowed to propose a model of the progressive degradation pattern of the parchment collagen. Overall, these data validate a multi-phase microbial succession model. This demonstration is pivotal to possible new restoration strategies, important for a huge number of ancient documents.

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