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Human Sciences: Ancient Ink as a Technology – University of Copenhagen

Human Sciences: Ancient Ink as a Technology

X-ray synchrotron sources have the potential to provide exciting new perspectives of fundamental importance within the Human Sciences. The project focusses on ancient manuscripts where one of the many challenges facing the historian is the fact that the majority lack a recorded archaeological context. This is not least true for the many thousands of texts from the earliest civilizations, sc. Egypt and Mesopotamia, of which a large proportion derive from the extensive antiquities trade and poorly documented excavations. For the historian it is important whether a diplomatic correspondence, administrative documents, or familly archives come from one place or another. Moreoever, many manuscripts are divided between different collections and considerable effort is spent trying to discover what material originally belonged together. It is our expectations that use of X-ray analysis will be able to deliver a chemical and structural "fingerprint", which reflects the physical properties of manuscripts and will enable a mapping of local traits in terms of both the nature of the inks, which can be shown to different properties, and the physical qualities of the papyri. The focal point of the analysis is the extensive Papyrus Carlsberg Collection which includes about 1400 manuscripts from a variety of geographical and social contexts that span some four millennia. If our expectations are fulfilled and it proves possible to map various physical properties onto the archaeological maps, the same procedure can be applied to various other forms of manuscripts across different periods and cultures and the scientific impact will be far-reaching.

Professor Kim Ryholt, Professor Sine Larsen, Professor emeritus Poul Erik Lindelof, Professor Kell Mortensen, MA Thomas Christiansen (PhD fellow)

Read on "Ancient Ink" from an article in Jyllandsposten, March 18th 2016 (in danish)

See our Poster on "Ancient Ink as Technology"