Archeometric analysis of inks from Coptic manuscripts

Tea Ghigo (La Sapienza, Rome)

Digital Classicist London seminar 2019

Friday July 19th at 16:30, in room G34, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Livecast at Digital Classicist London YouTube channel.

The main aim of this research project is to record the technological evolution of writing inks in early Christian Egypt. We aim at reconstructing a geo-chronological map of the inks used in different periods and in different areas of Egypt. Once we will have enough data, we will be able to place in time and space unknown manuscripts. In the meanwhile, our work serves to expand palaeographic and codicological analysis. I will discuss cases of study that show how material characterization of inks helps distinguishing between different scribes or different writing phases.

The results achieved so far, prove that iron-gall ink was in existence in Egypt on papyrus support since the late Antiquity. This disclaims the widespread opinion linking the iron-gall ink to parchment and European Middle Ages. Whether the kind of ink may have been at a certain point in time linked to the kind of text, remains to be verified.

To better understand the technological and manufacturing context, we will discuss the variety of inks identified on papyrus and parchment so far, stressing their diversity when compared to medieval European inks. Iron-gall inks containing exclusively iron, carbon inks containing also metals, and mixed inks—that could be a result of Arabic influence—co-existed in the same time. Our current investigations concern the application of new methods for unequivocal determination of the composition of writing black inks.