Endogenous fluorescence analysis: preliminary study revealing the potential of this non-invasive method to study mummified samples

M. Zanello, J. Pallud, S. Jacqueline, A. Augias, P. Varlet, B. Devaux, O. Nielsen, D. Abi Haidar and P. Charlier

Autofluorescence analysis allows new insights on human tissue without any dye in a non-invasive way and therefore seems well suited to study historical samples. An optical set-up recorded emitted autofluorescence in 1/spectral and 2/lifetime domains from different samples’ regions of interest. The studied samples were: a mummified right hand; bog body (Tollund Man) feet, and a Caucasian male hand (control sample). Spectral analysis revealed that mummified hand exhibited broad autofluorescence spectra whereas Tollund Man feet exhibited a weak single peak with 405 nm excitation wavelength. Control sample spectra is weaker than that of the mummified hand but higher than the Tollund Man feet's. Lifetime measurements indicated the presence of classical endogenous fluorophores on the mummified right hand. The Tollund Man feet exhibited two patterns of lifetime measurements: healthy zone exhibited lifetime values at 4 emission wavelengths but skin lesions at only 2 wavelengths. This first report of mummified samples’ autofluorescence analysis suggests the potential of optical analysis for archeologic research.

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