The University of Arizona

The Artemidorus Papyrus: Solving an Ancient Puzzle with Radiocarbon and Ion Beam Analysis Measurements

M E Fedi, L Carraresi, N Grassi, A Migliori, F Taccetti, F Terrasi, Mand?. A Mand?


Ancient papyrus manuscripts are one of the most fascinating sources for reconstructing not only ancient life habits but also past literature. Recently, an amazing document has come to the fore due to the heated debates it raised: the so-called

Artemidorus papyrus. It is a very long scroll (about 2.5 m) composed of several fragments of different sizes, with inscriptions and drawings on both sides. On the recto of the document, a text about geography and some drawings of heads, feet, and hands are present, while on the verso there are many sketches of animals, both real and fantastic. Its importance in classical studies comes from the fact that some scholars claim that it is the first known transcription of a relatively large fragment by the Greek geographer Artemidorus. However, other scholars think that the papyrus is a fake, drawn in the 19th century AD by a well-known forger. In order to overcome all possible ambiguities, the papyrus has been studied not only on the basis of historical and paleographic criteria but also by scientific techniques. We have contributed to the knowledge about the papyrus by radiocarbon dating the document and by analyzing the composition of the ink using ion beam analysis (IBA). Results are compatible with the scroll being an ancient manuscript: accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C measurements have dated the papyrus to a period between the 1st century BC and 1st century AD, while IBA measurements have pointed out the use of an organic (carbon-based) ink, which was typical of ancient Roman and Greek times. Details of the measurements are presented to emphasize the importance of combining AMS and IBA results.

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