TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Improved Methods for Date Attribution
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  09-09-2001 on 05:10 p.m.
Hi People,

Perhaps it's because my professional life has been technology-oriented, but I tend to think first in terms of what we might reasonably hope to achieve in the fairly near term. It seems to me that an area in which real progress can be expected - certainly one in which it is very badly needed - is methods of accurate date attribution.

The best technology being brought to bear on the subject today is C-14 dating. I don't want to revisit the debate we held on its reliability here. I think everyone would agree that there is nothing like a broad consensus that it is reliable, although there are people who belive that it is.

In principle, there are a number of physiccochemical principle that could be developed int accurate methods. One that surfaced only long enough to be an abstract at an ICOC some years ago is amino acid racemization, and details have not yet appeared in the literature accessible to ruggies.

The basic principle is simple. Amino acids are the things that get strung together to form proteins, of which wool is a particularly relevant example for us. These chemicals each come in two forms, related to each other as mirror images - like your right and left hand. Animals only use one form, so every protein molecule in wool is all of the "left hand" type when the wool is formed. With time, some of it turns into the "right hand" type. It ought to be possible to tell how longago the wool was sheared by measuring the percentage of the wool in each form.

I'm sure there are other principles that could be developed by some clever person. Some will turn out to be so simple that guys like me will wonder why we didn't think of them ourselves.

Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:Improved Methods for Date Attribution
Author  :  Patrick Weiler mailto:%20theweilers@home.com
Date  :  09-10-2001 on 12:51 a.m.

It appears that all of the posts to this topic so far agree that more research is needed, if only to further the various current speculations regarding the origins and ages of rugs. It has been painfully obvious that the money necessary to further this inquiry is not available through common funding sources of the government, universities or commercial channels. Why not? Because the government is not being pressured by politics or the military, the schools are not being pressured by academic interests and commercial ventures are not being pressured by the potential to increase their income.

Until there is a pressing military need to know who wove something and when it was woven, it is unlikely the government will ante up the money. The best that can be hoped for there is that a method for determining the age of an organic material will be needed to further research in another area entirely.

The idea that a private venture can be succesful in this area is unlikely due to the level of investment necessary. A fully equipped laboratory with advanced spectrographs, interferometers, electron microscopes, super computers, "clean rooms", fully trained staff and motivated doctorate-level specialists devoted to the research would probably cost a little bit more than a nice 18th century Tekke main carpet. Per day.

Even if a method is discovered, the per-weaving cost may be prohibitive. So far, the current method of eyeballing the weaving for bleeding reds and garish oranges is a little bit cheaper. It is unlikely that the federal government will tax each rug sold to fund the research, since most rugs sold are new production, and the producers have little interest in furthering research of no interest to themselves.

The possibility of private research into this area has some merit, if only for repositories of textiles to confirm the age of their holdings. Unfortunately, it still appears cost prohibitive.

An independent organization devoted to just this subject may be viable, but will likely be unable to garner necessary funding until a potential method has been developed far enough to persuade collectors to volunteer the necessary funding to pursue it. They need to see "the light at the end of the tunnel".


Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  Re:Improved Methods for Date Attribution
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  09-10-2001 on 06:41 a.m.
Hi Patrick,

In addition to the points you raise, I think most people greatly underestimate the amount of money it takes to support a serious laboratory investigation in a university. Typical budget items for a grant to do so include at least partial salaries for all personnel (including fringe benefits or around 25% of the base salaries), supplies, whatever specialized equipment might be needed, and an overhead charge by most universities that can range from, perhaps, 40% to 100% of the direct costs. A budget of $100,000 per year doesn't actually go terribly far.


Steve Price

Powered by UltraBoard 2000 <http://www.ub2k.com/>