Fire bombing of the Tell Halaf Museum in Berlin during World War II reconstruction of the succession of events based on mineralogical investigations
Drüppel, Kirsten; Lehmann, Christian
European Journal of Mineralogy Volume 21 Number 2 (2009), p. 443 - 456
published: Apr 22, 2009
ArtNo. ESP147052102015, Price: 29.00 €
Basaltic monuments from the Aramaic Tell Halaf (built ca. 1000 BC), Syria were severely damaged during fire bombing of the Tell Halaf Museum, Berlin in World War II. While the museum burst into flames part of the statues were covered with burnt bitumen from the roof of the museum, mixed with fragmented quartz of the roofing cardboard, grinded basalt, limestone artwork, and gypsum casts. Detailed mineralogical investigations of the thin carbon coating on the statues revealed that additionally a number of unexpected, non-basaltic minerals formed in the bitumen via temperature-dependent reactions due to the thermal impact by the bomb blasting and subsequent reequilibration during burning of the exhibition hall. The source material of these newly formed phases was provided by the basalt, the gypsum casts, the limestone artwork, the museum roof, the museum pipe system and, last but not least, the incendiary bomb itself. Phases include sphalerite (zinc of the pipe system + sulphur of gypsum casts), smithsonite (zinc of the pipe system + calcite of limestone artwork), wollastonite (calcium of the limestone orthostats + silica of the roofing cardboard), pyrite (iron of the basalt Fe-oxides + sulphur of the gypsum casts), alkali feldspar (saltpetre of the incendiary bomb + basalt plagioclase), and apatite (phosphorus of the incendiary bomb + calcium of the limestone). A conspicuous feature of samples close to the impact is the abundance of silicate glasses. Observed mineral-forming reactions suggest initial temperature conditions of > 980 °C near the fire centre and of 850-980 °C throughout the museum. The cold water used for fire fighting finally resulted in crack-producing stress that caused severe shelled fracturing of the statues.