Wednesday, November 04, 2015

C-14 dating for that Turkish Syriac manuscript

SYRIAC WATCH: Bible to undergo carbon test (Hurriyet Daily News).
A carbon test will be applied to a gilded Bible that was seized last week in Turkey’s northern province of Tokat.

The bible, thought to date back around 1,000 years, was found in a police operation targeting a group in Tokat that was illegally selling historical artifacts.

During the operation, a 21x16-centimeter, 10-page gilded Bible was found, written in Syriac and including religious pictures.

The ancient Bible has been delivered to a local museum.


1. I'm glad the manuscript is now in a museum.

2. It's not exactly a Bible. It contains excerpts from the Gospel of Matthew, presented out of order.

3. I'm skeptical about the use of carbon-14 dating in this case. This method of dating works best on object older than 1,000 years. This manuscript has been held by smugglers under who-knows-what conditions and it can hardly be assumed to be in a pristine state. The degree of contamination with more recent materials could badly throw off the C-14 dating. This is all the more of a concern in that the manuscript as it stands now may be cut-and-pasted from a genuinely old manuscript and doctored up with new drawings.

4. Most importantly, the Turkish authorities should make the manuscript available immediately to specialists in Syriac language, paleography, and codicology. They could tell pretty quickly if it is genuine and how much it may have been altered from its original condition.

Background here.