January 1998 Volume 20 Number 1
Two themes are explored in this book: the historical development of the materials used by people and the increasing importance of chemical and physical analysis and dating techniques for elucidating the nature of archaeological discoveries. As the author states, "These two themes describe chemistry both as the creator and as analyst of culture." Each chapter focuses on a different class of archaeological material: stone, soil, pottery, color, glass, organics, metals, human remains. The book offers the physical foundation for much of the reading on the development of culture.
Damage done by off-gassing to heritage collections is well documented in the conservation literature. However for a collection manager, the exercise of selecting appropriate construction materials for new construction or renovation which will not off-gas is difficult. For anyone contemplating renovation or construction, this publication is a must read. Although the publication does not focus on conservation per se, there are many excellent considerations equally applicable to conservation. Every component typically used in construction from concrete to roofing systems is discussed. The recommendation "to specify low-toxicity for-release agents" is worth the price of the book. Besides product evaluation, there is a useful list of suppliers of speciality products.