, Volume 81, Issue 12, pp 1685–1694 | Cite as

Stratigraphic Examination of a Korean Lacquered Wooden Coffin Sample by Pyrolysis/GC/MS

  • Jongseo ParkEmail author
  • Michael R. Schilling
  • Herant Khanjian
  • Jiyoung Lee


A lacquered wooden coffin decorated with gilded Sanskrit letters excavated in the Nongso ancient tomb site was constructed around the fourteenth century in Korea. Pyrolysis/gas chromatography/mass spectrometry was employed to identify the materials of the lacquered surface by analyzing the individual layers. The components of lacquer were detected in all four layers of wood substrate, black, brown, and gilded layers, indicating the coating material was Asian lacquer. The wood seems to be a kind of pine tree from the observation that pine resin-related components were detected in much of the wood substrate and decreasing in the upward direction. Markers of drying oil like azelaic acid and palmitic acid existed in large quantities in the black, brown, and gilded layers, indicating that drying oil was intentionally added to give a luster. In addition, compared with dried Asian lacquer from Korea, the lacquer used in the coffin was determined to be of the same type.


Pyrolysis/GC/MS Lacquered coffin Lacquer layer analysis Composition 



This study was supported by the conservation guest scholar program run by Getty Conservation Institute. It was also supported by National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea. The lacquered coffin samples for analysis were given from Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea. We are deeply grateful to all of them.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Author Jongseo Park has received research grants from Getty Conservation Institute. The other authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cultural Heritage Conservation Science CenterNational Research Institute of Cultural HeritageDaejeonSouth Korea
  2. 2.Getty Conservation InstituteLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Naju National Research Institute of Cultural HeritageNajuSouth Korea

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