Established in 1948, the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage is one of ten scientific institutions falling within the competence of the Belgian Federal Ministry of Scientific Policy. It was the first institute worldwide that groups laboratories, conservation-restoration workshops, photographic workshops, a photo library and a library in a single building. The building was designed in such a way as to join together very different work units and obtain an interdisciplinary approach to works of art. In 1963 a radiocarbon dating laboratory was installed in the institute.
Although most historians and art-historians consider the radiocarbon dating technique not to be very precise by their criteria, the method has gained a lot in importance since the introduction of the AMS technique. Radiocarbon is used increasingly in the field of textile research and old polychrome statues, but also objects made of ivory, parchment, paper and stucco are dated.
The method is used in cultural heritage studies, not only to obtain information about the age of the objects themselves but also to learn about the complex history of the objects and the cultures that made them. Besides the scientific interest radiocarbon is also used to detect forgeries or presumed forgeries.
Mark Van Strydonck (° 1951) has a Master Industrial Chemistry. He started his career in the radiocarbon dating laboratory of the University of Antwerp (1976-1977). Since 1978 he is responsible for the radiocarbon dating laboratory of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (Brussels, Belgium). The laboratory was founded in 1965.
Under his guidance the laboratory first changed from Proportional Gas Counting to Liquid Scintillation Counting laboratory. Later the laboratory was given a complete makeover and was transformed into an Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) laboratory.
In his scientific work he focussed on the development of new preparation techniques in mortar dating, textile dating and in the dating of cremated bones. Furthermore his interests go to the prehistory of the Balearic Islands, Coptic and early Medieval textiles from the Nile valley and the material study of Christian relic shrines.
He was organiser of the ‘International Symposium on the Mesolithic of North-West Europe’ (Brussels, 2007); the ‘2nd Mortar Dating Workshop’ (Mallorca, 2012); the ‘7th International Symposium 14C & Archaeology’ (Ghent, 2013) and the first ‘International Workshop Relics@ the Lab’ (Brussels, 2016).