Structural analysis of wood in the field of cultural heritage

Subject description

Wood is the material that man has used the most during his long history. Despite its limited durability, there are many wooden remains, wooden objects and artifacts that testify to the importance of this material for humanity and today we consider it as part of the cultural heritage. Investigation of wood enables to obtain a lot of important information to understand the past history, the emergence of new tree species, migration, the development of cultivation techniques and construction activities, cultural development, age and identity of the buildings and therefore the verification of historical facts. The challenge is to preserve cultural heritage objects by preserving the material from which they are made. Investigation of wood structure enables the identification of species and the assessment of degradation, which is the basis for the correct choice of wood conservation procedures. Growth ring analysis allows dendrochronological analyzes to determine the age and identity of wooden objects.

Topics covered by the subject: handling of waterlogged wood (all the way from finding, excavation to storage). Treatment of waterlogged archaeological wood – preparation of samples for investigations of wood structure and dendrochronological measurements. Methods of sampling dry wood from cultural heritage buildings. Dendrochronological measurements and analyses in combination with radio-carbon dating. Microscopic techniques (light microscopy, electron microscopy, EDS, UV microspectrometry) for the identification of wood species and analysis of wood degradation/conservation. Review of methods and selection of procedures for wood conservation.

The subject is taught in programs

Objectives and competences


Gain knowledge of the importance of wood in the cultural heritage and use of wood in a particular (historical) time and space. Acquire knowledge in the field of wood sampling in all pop-up forms and master the methods that enable the precise investigation of the structure of wood, identification of wood species, assessment of conservation and examination of growth ring characteristics. The aim is also to carry out dendrochronological analyses for the purposes of dating wooden objects.


The student will be competent to judge the correct choice of method of sampling and storage of wood samples. She/he will be able to independently prepare samples and investigate the structure of the wood and identify the wood species. On the basis of the content presented, she/he will be qualified to choose the optimal process of conserving wooden objects. The knowledge gained will allow analysis of the age of wooden objects.

Teaching and learning methods

Interactive lectures and explanations, consultations, exercises, field sampling, laboratory work, seminar. 


Expected study results

Knowledge and understanding:

The student has an overview and knows the different categories of wood in terms of preservation. She/he understands the importance of environmental factors on the preservation of wood. She/he can assess wood sampling methods for different investigation needs. She/he is familiar with various research methods for investigating the anatomy and preservation of wood and investigating growth ring characteristics. She/he understands the importance of conservation for the proper selection of wood conservation procedures in accordance with the modern guidelines in force in the conservatory. She/he knows methods of determining the age of wood with dendrochronology and radiocarbon data by wiggle matching method.


The knowledge gained enables the use of advanced microscopic techniques to assess the conservation of wood, to identify wood species and to select the wood conservation procedures appropriately. Knowledge enables proper management of wood at different stages of conservation as well as an investigation of the age of wooden objects.


Knowledge of wood structure and degradation rates, management and implementation of research methods, in the field of investigations of the properties of wood.

Transferable skills:

The student acquires the skills of using scientific literature. Knowledge is used and upgraded by the student in other subjects and in structuring the doctoral thesis.

Basic sources and literature

Florian Mary-Lou, E. (1990), Scope and History of Archaeological Wood (1990). In: Archaeological wood Properties, Chemistry, and Preservation. Eds.: Roger M. Rowell in R. James Barbour. American Chemical Society, Washington.

Čufar, Katarina. (2009). Dendrochronology and Past Human Activity—A Review of Advances Since 2000. Tree-Ring Research. 63. 47-60. 10.3959/1536-1098-63.1.47

Kristof Haneca, Katarina Čufar, Hans Beeckman (2009). Oaks, Tree-rings and Wooden Cultural Heritage: a review of the main characteristics and applications of oak dendrochronology in Europe,

Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 36, 1,P 1-11.

T. Nilsson, R. Rowell (2012). Historical wood–structure and properties. J. Cult. Herit., 13,3, S5-S9. Special issue on Wood science and conservation.

Gril, Joseph (2012). Wood Science for Conservation. J. Cult. Herit. Special Issue, V. 13, 3. S1-S216

Macchioni N. (2014) Wood: Conservation and Preservation. In: Smith C. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York, NY.

Nash, Stephen. (2002). Archaeological Tree-Ring Dating at the Millennium. Journal of Archaeological Research. 10. 243-275. 10.1023/A:1016024027669.

M. Jones, R. Eaton (2006). Conservation of ancient timbers from the sea. E. May, M. Jones (Eds.), Conservation science heritage materials, RSC, Publishing, Cambridge, UK.

Bontadi, J., & Bernabei, M. (2016). Inside the Dogon Masks: The Selection of Woods for Ritual Objects, IAWA Journal, 37(1), 84-97. doi:

Kim, Yoon & Singh, Adya. (2016). Wood as Cultural Heritage Material and its Deterioration by Biotic and Abiotic Agents. 10.1016/B978-0-12-802185-9.00012-7.

Mauro Bernabei, Nicoletta Martinelli, Paolo Cherubini (2019). Tree-Ring Analysis on Wooden Artifacts: What Can It Tell Us? In Advanced Nanomaterials, Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials for Diagnostic, Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage. Eds. Giuseppe Lazzara, Rawil Fakhrullin. Elsevier,P: 111-125.

Broda, M.; Hill, C.A.S. (2021). Conservation of Waterlogged Wood—Past, Present and Future Perspectives. Forests , 12, 1193.

Zisi, A. (2021). Forest Wood through the Eyes of a Cultural Conservator. Forests, 12, 1001.

Walsh-Korb, Zarah. 2022. "Sustainability in Heritage Wood Conservation: Challenges and Directions for Future Research" Forests 13, no. 1: 18.

Sodobna literatura s področja znanosti o lesu na področju kulturne dediščine

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