Papyrus of Artemidorus, Report exclusively reveals analysis on work: 'Unlikely inks are ancient'


Report program exclusively unveils analysis on Artemidorus Papyrus: inks unlikely to be ancient. A confirmation that it is a fake?

The case of the Papyrus of Artemidorus, the papyrus that was believed to be an original from the first century B.C. containing a text attributed to the geographer Artemidorus of Ephesus and some images of animals and parts of the human body, and would have represented in that sense a unique case in the history of papyrology, could be definitively closed: that is why in 2004 it was purchased at a high price by the Compagnia di San Paolo, which paid 2 million 750 thousand euros to the merchant Serop Simonian to win it, who sold the precious work to the Turin institute. This was a huge sum for a papyrus, partly due to the fact that the work had no certain provenance, as no documentation to that effect was available. In 2013, however, the scholar Luciano Canfora, a classical historian and philologist, expressed doubts about the authenticity of the Papyrus of Artemidorus (in fact, he believed that the language used in the text was not compatible with the one really used by Artemidorus), and a tussle ensued between Canfora himself, who believed the document to be a forgery attributable to the well-known forger Kostantinos Simonidis (Simi, 1820 - Alexandria, 1890?), and Salvatore Settis, who leaned instead toward believing it to be original.

At the judicial level, the affair ended in December 2018, when the Turin Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled that the Papyrus was a 19th-century forgery (it will go no further with the trial due to the statute of limitations having passed), but scholars continued to debate, as those in favor of originality believed that the game was still open.

Rai Tre’s television program Report on Sunday night exclusively previewed the results of analyses conducted by theCentral Institute of Book Pathology, an institute within the Ministry of Culture. On the images, revealed restorer Cecilia Hausmann of the Institute of Book Pathology, discontinuities were found between the figures and the folds of the papyrus (in particular, in some places where the papyrus is folded, the figures do not appear to be affected by the folding, as if they had been drawn on the already folded and ruined papyrus, thus later), while spectroscopic investigations of the inks revealed additional details, notably the widespread absence of impurities: “normally,” said Hausmann, “the purer the inks are, the more they denote modern manufacture. It is unlikely that these are of ancient manufacture.” In addition, the investigations revealed the presence of the so-called hexagonal diamond, an allotrope of carbon found in nature only in meteoric rocks, in Sri Lanka or Canada, thus not in Egypt, the area of supposed origin of the papyrus. “What we do know,” Hausmann continued, “is that this particular carbon structure is an industrial product, arising more or less in the nineteenth century.” Could the case therefore finally be said to be closed?

Papyrus of Artemidorus, Report exclusively reveals analysis on work: 'Unlikely inks are ancient'
Papyrus of Artemidorus, Report exclusively reveals analysis on work: 'Unlikely inks are ancient'


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