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

Natural dyes and fibres in archaeological textiles


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, C. R. Cartwright, G. Cofta, M. Zborowska, M. Mamoňová “Distinguishing the signs of fungal and burial-induced degradation in waterlogged wood from Biskupin (Poland) by scanning electron microscopy” Microscopy and Microanalysis. 2018

D. Tamburini, C. R. Cartwright, M. Pullan, H. Vickers “An investigation of the dye palette in Chinese silk embroidery from Dunhuang (Tang dynasty)” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 2018

D. Tamburini, C. Martin de Fonjaudran, G. Verri, G. Accorsi, A. Acocella, F. Zerbetto, A. Rava, S. Whittaker, D. Saunders, S. Cather “New insights into the composition of Indian yellow and its use in a Rajasthani wall painting” Microchemical Journal. 2018, 137, 238-249.

D. Tamburini, J. Dyer, I. Bonaduce “The characterisation of shellac resin by flow injection and liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionisation and mass spectrometry” Scientific Reports. 2017, 7(1), 14784.

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, B. Pizzo, M.Y. Mohammed, R. Sloggett, M. P. Colombini. “A critical evaluation of the degradation state of dry archaeological wood from Egypt by SEM, ATR-FTIR, wet chemical analysis and Py(HMDS)-GC-MS” Polymer Degradation and Stability. 2017, 146, 140-154.

J. Dyer, D. Tamburini, S. Sotiropoulou “The identification of lac as a pigment in ancient Greek polychromy - the case of a Hellenistic oinochoe from Canosa di Puglia” Dyes and Pigments. 2018, 149, 122-132.

C. M. de Fonjaudran, A. Acocella, G. Accorsi, D. Tamburini, G. Verri, A. Rava, S. Whittaker, F. Zerbetto, D. Saunders “Optical and theoretical investigation of Indian Yellow (euxanthic acid and euxanthone)” Dyes and Pigments. 2017, 144, 234-241.

L. Zoia, D. Tamburini, M. Orlandi, J.J. Łucejko, A. Salanti, E. Tolppa, F.Modugno, M. P. Colombini. “Chemical characterisation of the whole plant cell wall of archaeological wood: an integrated approach” Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 2017, 409(17), 4233-4245.

D. Tamburini, G. Pescitelli, M. P. Colombini, I. Bonaduce. “The degradation of Burmese lacquer (thitsi) as observed in samples from two cultural artefacts” Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis. 2017, 124, 51-62.

C. McQueen, D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, F.Gambineri, F. Modugno, M.P. Colombini, H. Kutzke. “New insights into the degradation processes and influence of the conservation treatment in alum-treated wood from the Oseberg collection”. Microchemical Journal, 2017, 132, 119-129.

D. Tamburini, J.J. Łucejko, M. Zborowska, F. Modugno, E. Cantisani, M. Mamoňová, M.P. Colombini. “The short-term degradation of cellulosic pulp in lake water and peat soil: a multi-analytical study from the micro to the molecular level”. International biodeterioration and biodegradation, 2017, 116, 243-259.