On the Limitations of the "Ink Test"

GThomas, Sep 11, 2015

Baden and Moss in the Atlantic article ... wrote: "(The ink on the second fragment, it should be noted, also tested as ancient.)"

The tests (published so far) do *not* indicate that the ink is ancient.

Stephen Goranson
[Duke University]
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GThomas, Sep 13, 2015

(from Jack Kilmon)
> What is the test used, or will be used, to test the age of the ink? C14 AMS?

As far as I can tell, Jack, it's what might be called a 'reflected-light test', certainly not anything like c14 AMS that would involve taking a sample of the ink (as one might suppose - and perhaps many have - just from the phrase 'ink test'). Not that I have any expertise in this area, but wading through the technical details that people who do have such expertise necessarily wallow in, I gather that this kind of test can only determine what basic kind of ink it is, not what all of its constituents are, nor their age, nor when the ink was prepared, nor when it was applied. (If that's the case - and I would be happy to be corrected - the test has enormous limitations not recognized by the public at large, nor even by Baden and Moss.) The Krutzsch and Rabin article in NTS 61.3 is good on this, and furthermore addresses the issue of why various disciplines are needed in the determination of forgery:
http://www.gospel-thomas.net/JWF_NTS_Krutzsch.pdf

One quote relevant to your own ink-mixing experience:
"[The Yardley] study suggests that the inks based on lamp black can be easily differentiated from each other, though it is not quite clear how the ancient inks are differentiated from the modern ones produced by the same method, i.e., how one identifies the age of the inks with the help of Raman spectroscopy." (p.362)

Mike Grondin