Mineralogy and technology of bricks used for the construction of the XII century ducal castle on the island of Ostrów Tumski, Wrocław (SW Poland)

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Abstract

The historic bricks from the ducal castle on Ostrów Tumski (Wrocław), one of the first brickwork structures in the Lower Silesia, which dates back to the XII and XIII century, were studied and characterised by a combination of classical petrographic studies (polarising microscopy), scanning microscopy, thermal analysis and X-ray diffraction. The combined results of these methods suggest that the firing temperature ranges from 950°C, through the most common temperatures of 850–900°C, to the infrequent temperatures below 750°C. Most of the bricks were fired under oxidising conditions, occasionally over a sequence of oxidising and reducing steps, resulting in a sandwich structure. The results indicate, that low-calcareous raw materials were used, presumably Miocene-Pliocene ‘flamy clays’, exploited a few kilometres away from the castle and tempered with locally obtained sand from the Odra river. Only small differences have been recognized in: 1) clay to aplastic material ratio, 2) amount of accessory minerals, 3) grain-size distribution of aplastic materials, but no significant changes in the brick technology were observed. The observed variability corresponds well to the different constructing phases, identified previously on the basis of archaeological work. Thus, our work proves that a detailed mineralogical and petrological study may help to identify different construction phases in historic monuments.

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