Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Wonder if Agamemnon Tselikas Could Get the Jerusalem Patriarchate to Test the Ignatius Book Discovered By Morton Smith Using the Hi-Tech Procedure He Helped Pioneer

I happened to hear that Agememnon Tselikas was one of the authors of a study which uses infrared light to determine the age of medieval manuscripts. Agamemnon Tselikas of course is the most important Greek paleographer there is.  Tselikas was hired by Biblical Archaeological Review recently to examine the evidence that remains of Morton Smith's 1958 discovery at the Mar Saba monastery.  Smith discovered a hitherto unknown letter of the Church Father Clement of Alexandria which challenged the accepted understanding of how the New Testament canon was formed.  The discovery has remained controversial ever since and the writing can no longer be scientifically examined to determine authenticity because the manuscript has disappeared.

I have been corresponding with Tselikas long before the Biblical Archaeology Review piece came out.  Any subject that I have decided to investigate that happens to have anything to do with medieval Greek manuscripts, Tselikas inevitably ends up being the man to speak with.  Now it turns out his pioneering research that might help determine whether the document is authentic.

The methodology is outlined in the International Journal of Computer Vision Volume 94, Number 1, 136-151 where it is noted that the:

viewing of artifacts under near infrared radiation is widely adopted in the visual examination of works of art, as it provides further information on invisible inks or pigments due to fading or cover of more recent layers of paint. Reflectographical studies on the optical behaviors of inks under visible and near infrared radiation have shown that inks that have very similar photometric properties under visible light can be separated when viewed under infrared radiation (Alexopoulou and Kokla 1999). The differentiation in near infrared is mainly due to the different chemical composition of the inks and can be represented using histograms or mixture of Gaussian function.

The basic idea I guess is that if the composition of the ink is pretty primitive as was the case in the medieval period, we can pretty much determine the date of most manuscripts up to the sixteenth century. But I wonder if - let's say - the Mar Saba document was written at the earliest possible date (i.e. in the late seventeenth century) I wonder if ink manufacturing was still primitive enough that we could use the test which is designed for sixteenth century manuscripts in less isolated parts of the world (i.e. mainland Greece).

After all, Tselikas has mentioned that he discovered some writing on p. 11 of the Voss Ignatius book. If the ink was manufactured only recently, the test presumably won't work. Yet in the event the ink was indeed from the earliest possible period, perhaps the examination would be able to determine a date.  Sounds like its worth giving it a try to me at least ...

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