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Analysis of Ancient Inks Using Raman Micro-spectroscopy


raman spectroscopy machine

An interdisciplinary team has been assembled to investigate the chemical properties of ancient carbon-based inks in a selected group of papyri dated across a span of several centuries. The use of Raman micro-spectroscopy as a non-destructive method to identify the chemical composition of carbon-based inks in manuscripts and artwork is well known. However, in a recent paper by the team at the Columbia University-based Ancient Ink Laboratory (“Characterizing the age of ancient Egyptian manuscripts through micro-Raman spectroscopy“), it was suggested that Raman micro-spectroscopy might demonstrate a correlation between the age of carbon-based inks used in ancient Egyptian manuscripts and variations in the spectra produced by those inks. That team concluded that “translating this exciting concept into practical applications will require careful consideration of statistics and additional experimental investigation” (1192). The purpose of this project by the CRBMI is to analyze the spectra of dated papyri to test the hypothesis of the Columbia team and determine if there is any correlation between the age of a papyrus’ ink and variation in their Raman spectra.


Some preliminary results from this work have been published in:


Smith, W. Andrew and Valerie Smith. “P. Duke Inv. 1377 (𝔓136): A Fragmentary Acts of the Apostles Papyrus.” Novum Testamentum 60.3 (2018): 290–310.

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