Enzymatic laundry for old clothes: immobilized alpha-amylase from Bacillus sp. for the biocleaning of an ancient Coptic tunic


The classification and conservation of ancient artworks (belonging to collections) is of important cultural, historical, and economic concern. However, ancient textiles often display structural damage that renders them fragile and unsuitable for exhibition. One of the most common types of damage is linked to erroneous restoration treatments, among which the application of glues to consolidate cuts. Harsh strategies, such as mechanical or chemical treatments, are not suitable since they can cause further impairment of the fabric, whereas mild approaches, like wet cleaning, are often ineffective, as also demonstrated by the present study. Here, we have explored the possibility of using gellan-immobilized enzymes of bacterial origin (Bacillus alpha-amylase) to obtain a satisfactory starch removal from a damaged archaeological tunic-shroud from the Turin Egyptian Museum (Italy), without altering the original yarns or textile fibers. This method, already applied to clean casein-damaged wall paintings, as well as cotton, silk, and linen fabrics, has proved to be optimal for the treatment of a wool burial shroud and to be able to definitively solve fragile textile restoration problems. Moreover, efforts have been made to obtain insights into the artwork: a multidisciplinary approach has allowed to obtain a correct chronological attribution (radiocarbon dating) and fabric fiber characterization (SEM-EDX) as well as shed light on the colored parts and dark stains (FORS+IRFC and XRF). Finally, the evaluation of the type of glue, by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, has suggested the best enzyme for glue removal. These results have demonstrated that a mild bio-based approach is a successful tool for the treatment of archaeological textiles in critical conditions.

DOI: 10.1007/s00253-017-8437-8

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@article{Ferrari2017EnzymaticLF, title={Enzymatic laundry for old clothes: immobilized alpha-amylase from Bacillus sp. for the biocleaning of an ancient Coptic tunic}, author={M Chiara Ferrari and Roberto Mazzoli and Simona Morales and Mariaelena Fedi and Lucia Liccioli and Anna Maria Piccirillo and Tiziana Cavaleri and Cinzia Oliva and Paolo Gallo and Matilde Borla and Michela Cardinali and Enrica Pessione}, journal={Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology}, year={2017}, volume={101}, pages={7041-7052} }