New findings on weathering in Angkor and new perspectives for conservation
In a new study, conservation expert Wanja Wedekind from Applied Conservation Science (ACS), and geologists Christian Gross, Andreas Hoffmann and Siegfried Siegesmund from the University of Göttingen, presented groundbreaking findings on the weathering of sandstone from Angkor.
The study opens up new perspectives for the sustainable preservation of the contour scaling affected surfaces of the historic temples. Sandstones, clay in the form of bricks and laterite are the building materials used by the Khmer to construct the imposing and magnificent temples in Southeast Asia. Many of these monuments suffer from fracturing, sanding, contour scaling, crust formation and salt weathering. The affinity to weathering is closely connected to the type of material. Two sandstone types classified as feldspathic arenite and quartz arenite of Angkor as well as two arkosic sandstones from Thailand are described and investigated in this study. Important petrophysical properties determined for the different sandstones consist of hydric expansion, thermal expansion, pore radii distribution and ultrasonic velocity. Different investigations such as capillary water uptake, surface hardness, hygroscopic water sorption, and salt resistance tests were undertaken in the laboratory to characterize the various rock types.
Observations and quantified damage mapping were done onsite at the Phnom Bakheng Temple. Contour scaling in the form of weathering crusts is one of the main deterioration features observable at the Angkor monuments. Comparisons are made between the building stone, the crust material from the Phnom Bakheng Temple and fresh stone material used for restoration. Significant differences in hydric and especially in thermal expansion of the crust and sandstone have been determined. The results seem to indicate that extensional processes occur, which can be considered a force for detachment (i.e., contour scaling, flaking). In an experimental trial, the hydric and thermal expansion of the weathering crust and the building stone was significantly reduced by using a weak acid for the crust and a swelling inhibitor for the original building stone.
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