ABSTRACT

The history of the science of archaeomagnetism conventionally starts in 1600 with the publication of William Gilbert's monumental work De Magnete, but the theoretical basis of this scientific field has to be positioned at the end of the nineteenth century. In Italy at that time, a number of scientists such as Giambattista Beccaria, Macedonio Melloni and Silvestro Gherardi, were working on magnetic field characteristics and their work variously contributed to the early study of Earth and rock magnetism. A major contribution to the birth of paleomagnetism as a science, and archaeomagnetism as a dating technique, was produced by Giuseppe Folgheraiter (1856–1913) by means of his research on the magnetic properties of volcanic deposits and his attempts to date ancient pottery of different epochs based on the magnetic properties of clay materials. Initially, Folgheraiter studied the rock magnetism of the volcanic rocks of Latium where he replicated the findings of Macedonio Melloni, who had studied Vesuvius lavas, and found that volcanic rocks are affected by a permanent magnetization. In addition, Folgheraiter verified the discovery by Filippo Keller of the Punti distinti. Folgheraiter also made the innovative proposal that lightning strongly influences the magnetic properties of lavas resulting in magnetic disorder. The main analytical effort of Folgheraiter at the end of the nineteenth century was dedicated to the study of the variations of magnetic inclination in different epochs as registered in archaeological pottery. He produced archaeomagnetic sets of analyses on 191 samples grouped into 10 epochs, that resulted in the first reconstruction of a geomagnetic secular variation curve (SVC). Even if nowadays the Folgheraiter analytical results have been replaced by more precise measurements, a great portion of the development of modern archaeomagnetic techniques originated with Folgheraiter’s experiments and intuitions. Many of those advances were improved upon only during the first half of the twentieth century by Emile Thellier (1904–1987). Actually, the well-known work by Thellier, resulting in the birth of the Saint Maur archaeomagnetic laboratory at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, had as a starting point the theories and suggestions developed by Giuseppe Folgheraiter. Based on the studies by Thellier, the well-known secular variation curve for France was derived, later to be perfected by Ileana Bucur in 1994.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.