Diego Tamburini


Diego's primary area of scientific research at the British Museum is the identification of natural organic colourants and their degradation products, and the characterisation of fibres used in the manufacture of ancient textiles.

Diego uses liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to formulate analytical strategies for the recognition of ancient colourants, in order to understand the natural sources used by people in the past to dye textiles in different parts of the world. He is also interested in identifying natural fibres and documenting in what condition they have survived by using scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

His background as analytical chemist includes the development and optimisation of mass spectrometric techniques to analyse organic materials in historical/archaeological objects. During his PhD, obtained at the University of Pisa (Italy), he explored the potentialities of analytical pyrolysis-based techniques (Py-GC/MS and EGA-MS) to evaluate the degradation state of archaeological wood. He also has expertise in the analysis of organic binders, amorphous organic residues, varnishes and lacquers (particularly Asian lacquers).

Current projects

Frozen textiles from the Pazyryk valley (Siberia)


Previous projects

2014-2016: Saving Oseberg Project, funded by the Norwegian State and the University of Oslo

2013-2015: ArCo Project: Ageing Study of Treated Composite Archaeological Waterlogged Artifacts, JPI - JHEP Joint Pilot Transnational Call for Joint Research Projects on Cultural Heritage

2013-2015: Sustainability in Cultural Heritage: from diagnosis to the development of innovative systems for consolidation, clearing and protection, Ministerial research program Cofin PRIN 2010-2011 cofinanced by MIUR:

2011-2013: The Herculaneum Conservation Project "Telephus Roof Project", financed by British School at Rome - Packard Humanities Institute


Recent Publications

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, E. Ribechini, M.P. Colombini. “New markers of natural and anthropogenic chemical alteration of archaeological lignin revealed by in situ pyrolysis/silylation-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry”. Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 2016, 118, 249-258.

S. Braovac, D. Tamburini, J. J. Łucejko, C. McQueen, H. Kutzke, M. P. Colombini

“Chemical analyses of extremely degraded wood using analytical pyrolysis and inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy” MIcrochemical Journal, 2016, 124, 368-379

D. Tamburini, I. Bonaduce, M. P. Colombini. “Characterisation of oriental lacquers from Rhus Succedanea and Melanorrhoea Usitata using in situ pyrolysis/silylation-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry” Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis. 2015, 116, 129-141.

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, E. Ribechini, M.P. Colombini. “Snapshots of lignin oxidation and depolymerization in archaeological wood: an EGA-MS study.” Journal of Mass Spectrometry, 2015, 50(10), 1103-1113. Featured article.

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, M. Zborowska, F. Modugno, W. Prądzyński, M.P. Colombini. “Archaeological wood degradation at the site of Biskupin (Poland): wet chemical analysis and evaluation of specific Py-GC/MS profiles.” Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 2015, 115, 7-15

J. J. Łucejko, F.Modugno, E. Ribechini, D.Tamburini, M.P: Colombini. “Analytical instrumental techniques to study archaeological wood degradation.” Applied Spectroscopy Reviews, 2015. 50(7): p. 584-625.

D.Tamburini, I.Bonaduce, M.P. Colombini. “Characterization and identification of urushi using in situ pyrolysis/silylation–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.” Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 2015, 111, 33-40.

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, F. Modugno, M.P. Colombini, P. Pallecchi, G. Giachi. “Microscopic techniques (LM, SEM) and a multi-analytical approach (EDX, FTIR, GC/MS, Py-GC/MS) to characterise the decoration technique of the wooden ceiling of the House of the Telephus Relief in Herculaneum (Italy).” Microchemical. Journal, 2014, 116, 7-14.

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, F. Modugno, M.P. Colombini. “Characterisation of archaeological waterlogged wood from Herculaneum by Pyrolysis and Mass Spectrometry.” International biodeterioration and biodegradation 2014, 86 (part B),142-149.