The cathodoluminescence characteristics of more than 500 white marble samples from known classical quarrying sites and surrounding areas in Greece, Turkey and Italy were analysed to develop a rapid and low-cost method for the characterization of white marbles. In most cases, the observed cathodoluminescence colors, intensity and intensity distribution form a distinct “cathodomicrofacies” which is commonly unique for a given area, quarry or parts of a quarry.
In cases where the cathodomicrofacies is common to more than one quarrying area, the stable isotope signature of the white marbles provides an effective complement to cathodoluminescence, and allows additional distinctions between marbles to be made.
The study of field samples from ancient quarrying areas can identify the source of white marble used for ancient sculptures and buildings. This new approach has been successfully tested on ancient marble sculptures and sarcophaguses from the collection of the Art and History Museum in Geneva.