At Schülerforschungszentrum HamburgUnraveling the Secrets of Ancient Inks
10 March 2023
Photo: Karsten Helmholz
Research on written artefacts is sometimes like a detective story: with modern methods, writing that had been erased or faded for centuries can be made legible again. In four sessions at Schülerforschungszentrum Hamburg, CSMC researchers will show pupils in grades 8 to 10 how this can be done.
Once ink has come into contact with paper or parchment, it leaves traces in it. Even if the writing on the surface is no longer legible, for example because it has faded over time or was deliberately erased, parts of the ink remain in the material. With the help of modern analytical methods – so-called multispectral imaging – these traces can be identified even after centuries, and lost texts can thus be reconstructed. This way, researchers at CSMC have recovered many messages from the past that were thought to be lost.
In March and April, CSMC is offering a four-week course in cooperation with Schülerforschungszentrum Hamburg (SFZ), in which pupils in grades 8 to 10 can try to unravel the secrets of lost writings themselves. First, they learn what inks were used in antiquity and the Middle Ages, and make their own inks according to original recipes. The manuscripts produced with these inks will then be examined with modern analytical methods under the guidance of CSMC researchers.
The course will take place on Wednesdays from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, starting on 29 March. Sessions will be held both at SFZ and in the laboratory at CSMC. Interested students can register for the course via the SFZ website until 29 March. The number of participants is limited to 15.