A Multi-Analytical Approach to Infer Mineral–Microbial Interactions Applied to Petroglyph Sites in the Negev Desert of Israel

Laura Rabbachin, Guadalupe Piñar, Irit Nir, Ariel Kushmaro, Mariela J. Pavan, Elisabeth Eitenberger, Monika Waldherr, Alexandra Graf, Katja Sterflinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Petroglyph sites exist all over the world. They are one of the earliest forms of mankind’s expression and a precursor to art. Despite their outstanding value, comprehensive research on conservation and preservation of rock art is minimal, especially as related to biodeterioration. For this reason, the main objective of this study was to explore the factors involved in the degradation of petroglyph sites in the Negev desert of Israel, with a focus on biodegradation processes. Through the use of culture-independent microbiological methods (metagenomics), we characterized the microbiomes of the samples, finding they were dominated by bacterial communities, in particular taxa of Actinobacteria and Cyanobacteria, with resistance to radiation and desiccation. By means of XRF and Raman spectroscopies, we defined the composition of the stone (calcite and quartz) and the dark crust (clay minerals with Mn and Fe oxides), unveiling the presence of carotenoids, indicative of biological colonization. Optical microscopy and SEM–EDX analyses on thin sections highlighted patterns of weathering, possibly connected to the presence of biodeteriorative microorganisms that leach the calcareous matrix from the bedrock and mobilize metal cations from the black varnish for metabolic processes, slowly weathering it.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6936
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Volume12
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the Austrian Science Fund (FWF, Der Wissenschaftsfonds) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), Israel for funding the project. We would also like to acknowledge Dubravka Jembrih-Simbürger, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, for help with initial XRF analysis, Mirsky Yelena, Ben-Gurion University, for WDXRF analysis, Chris Mckay, NASA-Aimes, U.S.A for climatic measurement support, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authorities (INPA) for sampling permission.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.

Keywords

  • Negev desert
  • analytical techniques
  • biodeterioration
  • metagenomics
  • nanopore sequencing technology
  • petroglyphs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering (all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'A Multi-Analytical Approach to Infer Mineral–Microbial Interactions Applied to Petroglyph Sites in the Negev Desert of Israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this