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Metal Fragment

Report: Metal Fragment

These are the items discussed in this section:

Red Cake

The metal fragment with white concretions.

Mondaine compact
Mondaine compact purchased for comparison.

This section is a compilation of two different reports, which also cover other materials. PDFs of the full reports are linked in at the bottom of this page.

2-8-S-40 & Mondaine Compact

Artifact 2-8-S-40 was analyzed for elemental makeup; and it was looked at in comparison with the Mondaine compact purchased on eBay for that purpose. The Purdue University Library Special Collections has among its Earhart holdings a Mondaine compact which belonged to her and was donated with other effects to the Library by George Putnam. The small compact we purchased was new and unused; the cellophane protecting the makeup was still intact (see photo above). It dates from the 1930s.

From Report 88:

1. Mondaine Cosmetics Compact Housing:

    1. The metal housing of the cosmetic case is made from brass, a copper and zinc alloy.
Case spectrum

Results and Conclusions

1. Metal fragment with white concretions (2-8-S-40)

1. The presumably ferrous substrate is indeed an iron-containing compound. The white concretion is a zinc-containing compound. FTIR reveals that the white concretion contains calcite as well as compounds due to surface dirt such as silicates and iron oxides. The zinc compound that comprises the majority of this sample was not FTIR active, which suggests that it is white zinc oxide. Raman spectroscopy of the concretion could not confirm this due to the strong fluorescence of the sample. The identification of an oxidized iron-containing material that has an oxidized zinc encrustation suggests that the sample is a piece of highly degraded galvanized steel. The galvanization process of coating steel with zinc to retard the iron alloy corrosion was invented in the eighteenth-century and patented in the second quarter of the nineteenth-century.

Ferrous substrate
white concretion
FTIR white concretion


As no copper is present, and iron is, the metal fragment is not brass, but galvanized steel as indicated by the presence of zinc. Nikumaroro is home to many, many metal drums of the type used to carry fuel and other supplies around the world, most of which have degraded into fragments. We are therefore inclined to think that this fragment is probably not part of the Earhart/castaway puzzle at the Seven Site.

Object Descriptions and Reason for Analysis

• OBJECT DESCRIPTIONS (form, material, color, etc): The objects submitted for analysis are archaeological material excavated from the Republic of Kiribati and reference material related to the Kiribati artifacts. They include: artifact 2-8-S-40 (a ferrous artifact with a white concretion on its surface), and a Mondaine cosmetic case containing two items, a dark pink rouge labeled ‘Medium’ and a very pale pink pressed foundation powder labeled ‘flesh’.

• REASON FOR ANALYSIS: Could these objects have an early twentieth-century American provenance? Could they have been manufactured prior to 7/2/37? Specific questions include: What is the composition of the flat ferrous artifacts? What is the composition of the white encrustation on its surface?

• SAMPLING: All samples for chemical analysis were transferred to glass containers to prevent contamination prior to analysis. All other analyses were performed nondestructively.

• ANALYSIS PROTOCOL: X-ray fluorescence analysis was used to identify the elemental compositions of the ferrous artifact and white concretion, and the Mondaine compact contents. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to identify the molecular composition of the Mondaine compact contents, and the white concretion on the ferrous artifact.

Click HERE for a PDF of Report 71. (2.1 MB)
Click HERE for a PDF of Report 88. (2.2 MB)

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