Public Release: 

Sources of Medieval and Renaissance alabaster

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study uses isotope fingerprinting to examine alabaster trade in Europe over five centuries. Gypsum alabaster was widely used in European religious sculptures and effigies during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. To reconstruct the European alabaster trade during this time period, Wolfram Kloppmann and colleagues measured sulfur, oxygen, and strontium isotope signatures of 66 European sculptures from the 12th-17th centuries. Previous work has shown that different alabaster deposits have distinct isotope signatures, which could be used to determine the sources of alabaster used in sculptures. Fifteen sculptures or parts of sculptural ensembles were made of alabaster from the English Midlands, and three from northern Spain, representing previously known major production centers in these regions. More than 20 sculptures had an isotope signature matching that of the Notre-Dame-de-Mésage deposit in the western French Alps. The results suggest the existence of an alabaster industry of previously unknown importance in the French Alps that supplied much of eastern France throughout the time period studied, according to the authors.


Article #17-07450: "Competing English, Spanish, and French alabaster trade in Europe over five centuries as evidenced by isotope fingerprinting," by Wolfram Kloppmann et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Wolfram Kloppmann, BRGM, French Geological Survey, Orleans, FRANCE; tel: +33-6-7755-9183; e-mail: <>

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