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Archaeometric study of ancient mortars from Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris: towards a better understanding of the construction of a Gothic cathedral (H/F)

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Date Limite Candidature : mardi 29 juin 2021

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General information

Reference : UMR7198-MARTAI-041
Date of publication : Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Scientific Responsible name : Jean-Philippe MECHLING / Yves GALLET
Type of Contract : PhD Student contract / Thesis offer
Contract Period : 36 months
Start date of the thesis : 1 October 2021
Proportion of work : Full time
Remuneration : 2 135,00 € gross monthly

Description of the thesis topic

Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris is one of the most famous buildings of Gothic architecture and, as such, has already been studied on many occasions. However, the last significant scientific article proposing a more accurate chronology of the 12th- and 13th-centuries campaigns of construction is almost forty years old, published in the 80s (BRUZELIUS, 1987). Since then, research on ancient monuments have evolved, based on new technological as well as methodological approaches, including the development of building archaeology and archaeometry specialized in heritage materials. In this context, the fire of April 15, 2019 offers the opportunity to access the internal structure of the cathedral, the masonry of which has never been investigated in details.

The aim of the PhD thesis project is to characterize the construction mortars. All types of mortar samples from many parts of Notre-Dame cathedral were collected, and will be encompassed and surveyed, from the initial phase of construction to the several ones of transformation and restoration (14th-20th century). The overall aim is to help discriminate the construction phases and deepen our understanding of a major construction site of the Gothic period. This thesis work will be based on a collaboration between the Institut Jean Lamour, Nancy-France (Team « Materials for Civil Engineering », under the supervision of Jean-Michel Mechling (Senior Lecturer HDR) and the Institut Ausonius, Bordeaux-France (co-supervision of Yves Gallet (Professor)).
The aim is to produce a scientific synthesis combining archaeometric and historical approaches. Collected mortars of the cathedral will be studied along three lines:
• a technological study, using a large range of laboratory characterizations, in order to establish the mortars mix designs and their physical properties such astheir density, porosity, and mechanical strengths;
• a typological study in order to detect any specificities related to the nature of the structures (vaults, walls, flying buttresses, etc.);
• a diachronic approach, which will compare the compositions of mortar samples from different points of the building, in order to identify a possible evolution of the mixtures during construction time. Different dating techniques will be used (Raman spectrometry, etc.), and the results will be compared to archaeological and historical datings.
Finally, an experimental study will be conducted on « equivalent mortars », compliant with current civil engineering state of the art. The aim is to obtain the properties (essentially rheological and mechanical) of the fresh mixes and at an early age.

Work Context

The Institut Jean Lamour (IJL) is a joint research unit (UMR 7198) of CNRS and Université de Lorraine. It is linked to the Institute of Chemistry of CNRS. Focused on materials and processes science and engineering, it covers: materials, metallurgy, plasmas, surfaces, nanomaterials and electronics.
It regroups 183 researchers/lecturers, 91 engineers/technicians/administrative staff, 150 doctoral students and 25 post-doctoral fellows. Partnerships exist with 150 companies and our research groups collaborate with more than 30 countries throughout the world.
Its exceptional instrumental platforms are spread over 4 sites; the main one is located on Artem campus in Nancy.

The Institut Ausonius – Institut de recherche sur l'Antiquité et le Moyen Âge – is a joint research unit (UMR 5607) of CNRS and Université Bordeaux Montaigne, based at the University Bordeaux Montaigne campus in Pessac (Gironde).
Linked to the Institut national des Sciences Humaines et Sociales of CNRS, it focuses its activities on studying Ancient and Medieval history, literature, art and archaeology. In these academic and research fields, it is recognized as a reference laboratory. Together with the University of Bordeaux, it has been ranked 1st in France and 16th in the world in the field of archeology in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017.
Ausonius regroups 51 researchers/lecturers, 24 engineers/technicians/administrative staff, 36 doctoral students and 12 post-doctoral fellows.

Constraints and risks

• Work on scaffolding (observation, sampling);
• Risk of lead contamination (work with masks and dedicated protections);
• X-rays.

Additional Information


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