Saturday, March 05, 2011

Radiocarbon Dating of Book of the Dead of Sobekmose

Brooklyn Museum (Rachel Danzing)

Accompanied by some lovely photos.

Our research to further understand the Book of the Dead of the Goldworker Amun, Sobekmose continues. Carbon-14 (C-14) dating was one of the first scientific analytical techniques that we employed to confirm the date for this piece, thought to be approximately 1420 B.C.E. based on previous research.

For several reasons, it is a rare opportunity for us to test Museum objects using this technique. One necessary condition is that the object must fit into a certain time range. C-14 dating requires that the material in question be at least 2,000 years old (and up to 50,000 years old) to get a result with a significant certainty. Fortunately, we believed our papyrus fit into this time range.

Additionally, with works of art on paper, we do not often have an expendable sample for this type of analysis. Unlike the Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy described in the two previous posts which require no sample and were used to investigate pigments and adhesives used on the papyrus, C-14 dating requires a sample from the object, usually about 5 mg, which is destroyed during testing.

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