The role of exact sciences in connection with Cultural Heritage now is well established and a new scientific branch has been generated: Archaeometry. Literally Archaeometry means measurement on ancient objects. It is a multidisciplinary field of investigations where the rigorous methods of exact sciences give a fundamental contribution to solving the problems associated with conservation and restoration, as well as to the study itself of Cultural Heritage. Archaeometry, as a scientific research field, involves interdisciplinary groups formed by scholars of the humanistic area (archaeologists, art historians, ...) together with scientists: physicists, chemists, mathematicians, biologists, engineers, etc.
The primary justification for the need of involving exact sciences in the field which traditionally has been in the past exclusive of Art historians must no doubt be found in the conservation and restoration activities. It is in fact quite obvious that diagnosis on nature and cause of degradation as well as addressing to possible remedies and criteria for a proper restoration and choosing the best conditions for conservation must be established on scientific basis.
The second argument which in the public opinion justifies the involvement of science with the world of Art is the confidence that scientific methods are infallible in unmasking forgeries. This is in fact partially true, provided forgeries are often proved by scientific examinations while, on the contrary, no scientific proof, and especially no single proof, can absolutely give the certainty of authenticity of a work of art.
But in our opinion the awareness of the central role of a scientific method as a support of philological and historical investigations is still very little diffused or, at least, it finds it hard to become widespread. Perhaps also because of our mentality, Physics, if compared to chemistry, which can more easily find application to the state of conservation diagnoses and restoration procedures, is more apt to find application in a context free from authentication or conservation implications. We want to stress the fact that very recently the Italian Physicists community demonstrated a strong interest in this field (for example, we recall the general session “Physics, Cultural Heritage and Society” organized at the SIF LXXXVI 2000 annual Congress).
This course of the International School of Physics “Enrico Fermi” on the physical methodologies that can be applied to the Cultural Heritage should be intended as an opportunity for young graduates in physics and diploma holders from Specialization schools, who whish to continue their activity in Archaeometry, to learn the modern physics analysis techniques employed for the Cultural Heritage with particular emphasis on the study of the Cultural Heritage itself rather than on their applications to conservation. The lectures here collected under the heading Physics Methods in Archaeometry were given by an international team of invited experts and have been oriented towards the methods suited to give what can in general be intended as material characterization. The only relevant exception being the lectures on microclimatic indoor and outdoor conservation conditions which can be considered as a fully due recognition of the importance of conservation for Cultural Heritage.
We are very grateful to the scientific secretaries, dr. A. C. Felici and dr. E. Sibilia, for their invaluable organization efforts, essential for the excellent success of the Course. We acknowledge also the warm personalized commitment of the Italian Physical Society secretary Ms. B. Alzani and her collaborators Miss R. Brigatti and Miss M. C. Pigazzini, who, with their enthusiastic and competent daily help and for having organized special memorable social events in the beautiful scenery of Varenna and Villa Monastero, made the Course a pleasant experience for all participants. Finally we thank Ms. M. Missiroli and Ms. C. Vasini of the Società Italiana di Fisica Editorial Office for their excellent and careful editorial work.
M. Martini, M. Milazzo and M. Piacentini