Paper Analysis


To find scientific evidence of paper age and origin.


There's more to a piece of paper than meets the eye - and paper analysis can find it. This specialized investigative process extracts historical and physical evidence from documents, photographs, art prints, books, and other paper-based objects.

Investigators have a number of analytical tools at their disposal, ranging from standard optical magnification, to exquisitely sophisticated molecular spectroscopy. These tools are used, alone or in combination, to characterize the properties of paper in a number of ways.

For example, a qualitative analysis shows what materials are in the paper, fiber, ink; quantitative analysis measures how much. Chemical analysis evaluates composition and pH; physical analysis measures gloss, strength, color. Organic analysis detects carbon-based traces of plants and organisms; while inorganic analysis identifies mineral evidence in pigment and ink.

Each of these approaches provides a set of facts about an artifact's condition, age or origins.

The method of choice for any given situation is determined by several factors, including: the objectives of the investigator (authentication, preservation, personal curiosity); the relative value of the paper (historically, legally, personally); and whether the information gained from destructive testing will outweigh the loss of material samples.

Solved by organic analysis

The authenticity of the mysterious Vinland Map was debated for decades. In 2002, a scrap of map parchment was analyzed by a destructive, organic method (radiocarbon dating). The evidence proves that this map of the New World was made in 1434 AD (+/-11), a full 60 years before Columbus got there.

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