Researching the original and decay compounds of the walls and frescoes of Pompeii


L’analisi dei pigmenti recuperati dalla sepoltura


by IBeA research group


and its influence on the wall paintings


Our research group is called IBeA (Ikerkuntza eta Berrikuntza Analitikoa), which in Basque language means Analytical Research and Innovation. The group is formed by lecturers and researchers from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

Since 1987 our group has been working in many basic research lines and in several innovative and applied activities with surrounding companies. Though the main research activities are linked with the development of analytical methodologies in the area of environment field and Cultural Heritage, in the last decade we have been involved in many other activities such as food analysis, bioactive compounds, nanomedicine, etc., and nowadays we have incorporated a new research line related with extraterrestrial materials and space missions to explore the Solar System.


Cultural Heritage

Cultural Heritage

Analysis of both original and decaying compounds in historical buildings, archaeological sites, artworks, etc to diagnose the conservation state

Extraterrestrial materials

Extraterrestrial materials

Analysis of materials which could be present in other planets of the solar system (e.g. Mars)

Food chemistry

Food chemistry

Analysis of metals and organic compounds harmful for human health in food.

Environmental chemistry

Environmental chemistry

Monitoring of inorganic and organic  pollutants in soils, water systems (rivers, sea, etc.) and air.


The main objective of APUV is to analyze the original materials used to build the Pompeian houses (mortars) as well as the pigments used for the wall paintings.  Some of these materials show degradations and decay compounds which are being analyzed. In this way, we can diagnose the conservation state of the mortars and wall paintings.

Inside APUV project we are developing new innovative analytical methodologies (on site and in the laboratory) to improve the detection and characterization of different materials from Pompeii (e.g. organic pigments, etc.), we analyze the composition and impact of the volcanic materials on the walls and wall paintings, we characterize the nature of the raw pigments recovered from the burial in their original bowls, etc.

Nowadays, APUV team is formed by 7 people:



I am Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), obtaining the Dr. Honor Award of the 1983 promotion. In this year I got my first contract as lecturer at the same university, getting the chair in Analytical Chemistry in 1993. Till December 2015 I have 205 research articles published in ISI journals, having a personal h-index of 28. I have presented more than 300 communications to national and international congresses, being invited to more than 30 talks. I have supervised 26 Ph.D. works in the field of Environment and Cultural Heritage and passed several personal evaluation processes. Currently I have the qualification of A1 (100 points over 100) by the UNIQUAL agency of quality from the Basque Country. In December 2015, I have been nominated as one of the most 40 relevant persons of the Basque Science and Technology System. Since 2009 I am review editor of the ISI Journal of Raman Spectroscopy and I joined the panel of reviewers for Nature in 2013.

I am the Principal Investigator of the IBeA Research Group of Excellence (qualified as A+ by the Basque Government for the 2013-2018 period). This qualification of excellence has been maintained since 2002. I am also the coordinator of the UFI Global Change and Heritage, a new research and doctoral structure of the UPV/EHU grouping three research groups of excellence to merge multi and interdisciplinary activities. The main success of this UFI is the design and development of a new Doctorate Programme on Interdisciplinary Scientific Strategies in Heritage and Landscape that started in the 2014/2015 academic year. Nowadays 42 PhD students are under this program to complete their doctoral studies.



I am graduated in Chemistry (2005) by the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and I have a Master in Secondary Level Teacher Formation (Complutense University of Madrid). I have also a Master degree (MSc) on “Environmental Contamination and Toxicology” (2008) and a Ph.D. with distinction (2011), both of them obtained in the UPV/EHU. An important part of my PhD project was based on the first studies developed in The House of Marcus Lucretius from Pompeii during the years 2008-2010 (laboratory and in situ analyses). From 2010 to 2012 I was a substitute teacher in the Applied Chemistry Department (UPV/EHU) and from 2012 up to now I am Assistant professor in the Analytical Chemistry Department (UPV/EHU). Till May 2016 I take part in 33 research projects (national, international and contracts), in one of them as IP. I have around 55 research articles in ISI Journals and book chapters, around 70 communications to national and international congresses and I have a personal h-index of 12. I have supervised five Master Thesis, one Ph.D. work and currently, I am the supervisor of two Ph.D. works, one of them related with APUV work in the archaeological site of Pompeii.

During my professional career as a researcher I have acquired experience in the characterization of building materials (mortars, bricks, stones, etc.), pigments, wall paintings, and lacquered artworks, prehistoric paintings in rock shelters, etc. and in the diagnosis of the impact of natural and environmental stressors on such kind of materials or items belonging to Cultural Heritage. Concretely, apart from destructive analytical techniques (e.g. ICP-MS, ion chromatography, etc.), I have a wide experience using non-invasive benchtop and portable spectroscopic instruments (Raman and infrared spectroscopy, SERS, etc.). In the last years I have acquired more specialization in the development of quantitative methodologies using Energy Dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (ED-XRF) and also in the application of m-ED-XRF imaging analysis. I am member of APUV since 2010 and I took part in all the expeditions.

If you are interested in contact me, please, write to the following email:



I’m graduated in Chemistry (Biochemistry) in the University of Valladolid (UVA), I have three official Master Degrees (National Distance Education University UNED, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, and University of Cadiz UCA), and a PhD degree in 2008 (UPV/EHU). Since 2009, I am Lecturer and researcher in the Analytical Chemistry Department, Science and Technology Faculty (UPV/EHU).

Till April 2016, I have published more than 60 research articles in ISI Journals and book chapters, I presented more than 95 communications to national and international congresses and I have supervised three international Ph.D. works and five Master. I have participated in almost 40 research projects (contracts, national and international), in five as Principal Invstigator.

My main research areas of interest include the risk assessment of environmental pollution (natural and anthropogenic) in aquatic and atmospheric systems, the application of chemometrics and kriging statistic procedure to the environmental and cultural heritage materials analysis, in situ and laboratory characterization of paintings, wall paintings, building materials, prehistoric paintings preserved in rock art shelters, etc by analytical techniques such as Raman spectroscopy, Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), etc, and in diagnosis of the conservation state of  walls and mural paintings in historic buildings, etc.

I am member of APUV since 2011, and I have taken part in the last three Pompeian expeditions (2012, 2014 and 2015). If you are interested in contact me, please, write to the following email:



I am graduated in Chemistry (2007) and I have two Master Degrees on “Expert in Environment and Sustainability” (2010) and “Rehabilitation, Restoration and integrated management of Built Heritage” (2011). I obtained the Ph.D. degree as an international doctor in 2015. All these studies were obtained in the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). During my Ph.D. studies I improved my knowledge in the spectroscopic field through internships at the University of Pierre and Marie Curie (France) in 2013 and University of Chile (Chile) in 2014. Actually, I have a postdoctoral position in the Department of Analytical Chemistry (UPV/EHU).

Till May 2016 I take part in 11 research projects (national, international and contracts). I have around 20 research articles in ISI Journals and book chapters, around 20 communications to national and international congresses and I have a personal h-index of 6.

My research is focused mainly in the diagnosis of the impact of different kind of environments (direct/diffuse impact of marine environments together/or not with the impact of direct/diffuse urban-industrial activities) on materials belonging to Built Heritage. During my Ph.D. work I developed a self made passive sampler to collect airborne particulate matter in order to evaluate the nature and possible negative influence of the dry depositions that can take place on building materials. Apart from that, I have a wide experience in the use of portable and laboratory spectroscopic techniques (Raman, X-ray fluorescence, etc.). I am member of APUV since 2014, and I took part in the last two Pompeian expeditions.

If you are interested in my research studies, please contact with me by email at



I get a degree in Chemistry in 2008, an official Master Degree in “Environmental Contamination and Toxicology” in 2009 and after that, the PhD degree as an international doctor in 2013. All of these were obtained in the University of the Basque Country where I have continued my entire research career, with the exception of a brief stay in the University of Parma in 2012. Nowadays, I have a postdoctoral position and I have worked as substitute professor both in the Department of Analytical Chemistry (Science and Technology Faculty) and in the Paint Department (Fine Arts Faculty). I am focused, specially, in the analysis of salts that affect to the built heritage by ion chromatography and Raman spectroscopy. I am member of APUV since 2014, and I took part in the last two expeditions.

If you are interested in contact me, please, write to the following email:



I am graduated in Chemistry and MSc with a Master Degree on “Environmental Contamination and Toxicology”, both took on in the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). In my Master Thesis I analyzed some pink pigments from the Naples National Archaeological Museum (MANN) applying for first time in the research group the SERS technique . Nowadays I am a predoctoral researcher from the UPV/EHU. My PhD project is based on the development of new analytical methodologies (e.g. Enhance Raman Spectroscopy based-methodologies, quantitative XRF images and punctual analyses, Surface thermodynamic modelings, etc.) applicable to determine the original composition and deterioration processes on inorganic pigments, lake pigments and mortars used in Pompeian Houses walls and wall paintings. Till May 2015 I have published 3 research articles in ISI journals. I am member of APUV since 2014, and I took part in 2015 expedition.

If you are more interested about me do not hesitate to contact me:



I’m graduated in “Science and technologies for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage” with two Master Degrees on “Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” and “Rehabilitation, Restoration and integrated management of Built Heritage”. I have a predoctoral position in the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) since 2013 and from then, I have carried out internships at the University of Pierre and  Marie Curie (France), the FORTH institute (Greece) and the University of Connecticut (U.S.) respectively. These experiences help me improving my knowledge both in green chemistry field and in the use of portable Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) systems. My PhD work is focused on the development of new eco-friendly products that prevent and eliminate bio-degradation processes threatening the conservation of mural paintings. For this reason, I became an APUV member since 2014 and I took part in the last two Pompeian expeditions.

For more information about my researches, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email at



I felt in love with chemistry in primary school and I worked hard until I graduated in Chemistry in 1999. Later on I obtained my PhD in 2004. The title of my PhD was “Pigment Characterisation on Paper Based Artworks by Vibrational Spectroscopic Techniques”, in which I used mainly FTIR and Raman spectroscopy. Since that, I have co-authored 60 papers published in international journals, assisted to 25 international congresses and co-authored more than 100 congress communications. Since 2008 I am an associated teacher at the University of the Basque Country. Even though I like my job I prefer to go to the mountain.


IBeA research group collaborates since 2015 with the “Applied Research Laboratory of Pompeii”, fruit of the agreement signed the same year with the “Archaeological Park of Pompeii”. In this agreement between the two parties there are two broad lines of action:

1. Characterization of the collection of pigments and dyes preserved in the warehouse of the “Applied Research Laboratory of Pompeii”, through the use of portable instrumentation based on non-destructive molecular and elemental analytical techniques.

2. Presentation of a joint research project to characterize and diagnose building materials, paintings and mosaics that decorate a Pompeian house, in order to obtain a detailed view of the nature of the original materials, products of degradation that affect them and the role of the environment in their development.

Therefore, according to these two previous points, the activities and joint research projects that were proposed respectively are:

1. IBeA research group undertakes to make available to the Superintendency the scientific instrumentation and research staff necessary to study the molecular and elemental composition of the pigments contained in the more than 260 vessels currently preserved in the warehouse of the “Applied Research Laboratory of Pompeii”. The collaboration between researchers of IBeA group and the technical staff of the “Applied Research Laboratory of Pompeii”, stimulates a process of integration of competences between personnel specialized in complementary disciplines. This collaboration provides an exchange of knowledge that enriches the technical skills of the personnel involved, fulfilling the requirements of excellence and interdisciplinarity that the study of such an important heritage requires.

2. In the second area of research, the instrumentation described above will be applied to the study of construction and decorative materials, as well as the mural paintings of a Pompeian house called “Casa Degli Amorini Dorati” as a work area.

In this way, and under the agreement signed with the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, our research group collaborates with the “Applied Research Laboratory of Pompeii”,, which has a wide collection of pigments and dyes that were recovered in their clay bowls originals of the burial of Pompeii and Oplontis.


Thanks to the collaboration between both research groups, the pigments and dyes are completely characterized. This characterization tries to know completely the elemental and molecular composition of the samples under study through non-invasive analytical techniques to:

1. Identify the main compound or compounds (mixtures to obtain different shades) responsible for giving color to the inorganic or organic pigment (lake pigments) by a direct non-invasive analysis and without need to destroy the sample.

2. Determine the nature of the inorganic substrate used to produce the lake pigments.
3. Identify the minor or trace elements present in the inorganic or lake pigments, which can provide information about the origin of the materials, or in other cases, possible enrichments due to the years that have been buried.

In addition to the characterization, new analytical procedures are also being developed to identify compounds, which would be impossible to detect by direct analysis using traditional spectroscopic techniques. In this sense, it is possible to highlight the optimization of an analytical procedure based on the application of Surface Ennhnced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) to identify organic dyes in lake pigments. This procedure would allow the determination of the nature of pink-purple dyes in lake pigments from the collection of pigments available from “Applied Research Laboratory of Pompeii”,, as this methodology has been previously successfully applied in the determination of the presence of the dye madder lake (1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone and 1,2,4-trihydroxyanthraquinone) in Pompeii’s pink and purple lake pigments preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Naples.


Since 2008 until nowadays APUV has been working on different research lines involving Pompeii. In the next figure you can see year by year all the expeditions, colaborations and agreements we did among this years.




If you are interested in what we are doing over those years, click on the next images and you will find additional information and many photos!


Inside APUV project we mainly use non-invasive portable spectroscopic instrumentation (elemental and molecular) to analyze the walls and wall paintings from Pompeii. Concretely, we have different portable/handheld instruments which allow us to extract reliable and in most cases conclusive results regarding the original composition and decay compounds under analysis. With the use of these kind of instrumentation, it is no necessary to extract any sample. We only put in contact our sampling interface on the surface under study and without any damage we extract the analytical information.

When  it is possible, micro-samples are taken to the laboratory in order to analyze them in depth. In this case we also use benchtop spectroscopic instruments, but also additional destructive analytical techniques.


  • Two Raman spectrometers (785 and 532 nm excitation lasers respectively) from B&WTEK (innoRam model) with their corresponding portable video-microscopes (BAC151B model from B&WTEK).
  • A motorized tripod (XYZ movement) from MICROBEAM S.A useful to perform micro-Raman measurements using the Raman probe coupled to the portable video-camera.
  • Handheld Energy Dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (HH-ED-XRF).
  • Laser Induced Breakdown Spectrometer (LIBS).
  • Infrared spectrometer implementing a Diffuse Reflectance Infrared (DRIFT) sampling interface.
  • A colorimeter.
  • A surface contact pHmeter.


  • Ion Chromatograph.
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS).
  • Micro Energy Dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (ED-XRF) with a single point analysis and imaging options.
  • Several Raman spectrometers (a confocal microscope and two probe-based spectrometer).
  • Infrared spectrometer (FTIR, DRIFT and ATR)
  • UV-Vis-NIR spectrometer.




Commercial brands that sponsor APUV project:




Funding obtained from public administration and institutions:







  • Maguregui, U. Knuutinen, K. Castro and J.M. Madariaga. Raman spectroscopy as a tool to diagnose the impact and conservation state of Pompeian Second and Fourth style wall paintings exposed to diverse environments (House of Marcus Lucretius). Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, 41, 1110-1119, 2010.
  • Maguregui, U. Knuutinen, , I. Martinez-Arkarazo, K. Castro, J.M. Madariaga. Thermodynamic and Spectroscopic Speciation to Explain the Blackening Process of Hematite Formed by Atmospheric SO2 impact: The case of Marcus Lucretius House (Pompeii). Analytical Chemistry, 83, 3319-3326, 2011.
  • Maguregui, U. Knuutinen, I. Martínez-Arkarazo, A. Giakoumaki, K. Castro and J.M. Madariaga. Field Raman analysis to diagnose the conservation state of excavated walls and wall paintings in the archaeological site of Pompeii (Italy). Journal of Raman Spectroscopy, 11, 1747-1753, 2012.
  • Giakoumaki, M. Maguregui, I. Marínez-Arkarazo, U. Knuutinen, K. Castro, J.M. Madariaga. Portable Spectroscopic Instrumentation at the Service of Archaeologists and Conservators for non-Invasive in situ Analysis: The Case of Pompeii. Coalition, electronic Journal of the Network on Science and Technology for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage, 2012, 23, 6-12.




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