Spectroscopic examination is the only method that allows conservators and art historians to precisely identify the materials artists used for their works.This information enables art historians and scholars to understand what artistic materials were available during a certain period in a particular region, and therefore illuminates trade routes and interactions among cultures.
Because some materials were available in particular regions and periods, the retrieval of pigments with a well-known date of invention allows art historians to date artifacts post quem.
Other pigments may be known to have disappeared from the artists’ palette, so their presence permits experts to date artifacts ante quem.
Spectroscopy is also extremely useful to fight forgery.
Fake artworks can be spotted when anachronisms arise in the materials, and the materials don’t align with those used in known works by the same artist.
But spectroscopy is most often used for conservation, because it pinpoints the causes for the deterioration of artwork, as well as how to counteract it.