The nature of ancient Egyptian copper-containing carbon inks is revealed by synchrotron radiation based X-ray microscopy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Thomas Christiansen, Marine Cotte, René Loredo-Portales, Poul Erik Lindelof, Kell Mortensen, Kim Ryholt, Sine Larsen

For the first time it is shown that carbon black inks on ancient Egyptian papyri from different time periods and geographical regions contain copper. The inks have been investigated using synchrotron-based micro X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and micro X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy (XANES) at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). The composition of the copper-containing carbon inks showed no significant differences that could be related to time periods or the geographical locations. This renders it probable that the same technology for ink production was used throughout Egypt for a period spanning at least 300 years. It is argued that the black pigment material (soot) for these inks was obtained as by-products of technical metallurgy. The copper (Cu) can be correlated with the following three main components: cuprite (Cu2O), azurite (Cu3[CO3]2[OH]2) and malachite (Cu2CO3[OH]2).
Original languageEnglish
JournalScientific Reports
Number of pages8
ISSN2045-2322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2017

ID: 186538279