Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >Carbon 14 and old Oriental Rugs
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Tue, Jun 5th, 2007 07:13:51 PM
Topic: Carbon 14 and old Oriental Rugs

Since the mid-1980's when Carbon 14 dating was first applied to old oriental carpets, actually to a group of kelim that were being offered to McCoy Jones, we are on record voicing our suspicions about the efficacy of this procedure when used in this regard.

Regardless of the refinements the process has undergone since then, the issues of result calibration and de-contamination loom large in accepting any test results for old oriental rugs as facts. Forget about the fact these rugs are not over 1000 years old, which is the date most practitioners of this procedure agree is a demarcation point.

Calibration for results use:

"A calibration curve, determined from high precision 14C(carbon 14,ed.) measurements of wood samples from tree rings of known age, is used to calculate a historical age from the radiocarbon age(calibration procedure)."

So, in fact, any C14 result must be compared and calibrated against a known. This is why RK has always maintained a comparison of the C14 result must be compared to a known.

"Because of the statistical uncertainties of both 14C analysis and the calibration curve, it is not possible to quote an exact historical age."

These two quotes, taken from Dr. Bonani's preface in rageth's book clearly sum up the difficulties in getting the results right.

The contamination issue poses definite difficulties in even getting a result to compare and calibrate.

It is precisely for these two salient and significant reasons RK has expressed suspicion and distrust of any dates gotten for old Oriental Rugs.

Then, of course, there is the caveat of "probability" any resulting date carries.

Why would someone blindly accept a "scientific" procedure, like C14 which is not really scientific (because it produces "probabilities" not "certainties"), in comparison to an expert art historical analysis of the object with others of its type?

Well, we all know most people when stricken with cancer go to a doctor, even though the doctor knows nothing about the cause of the cancer, how it came into the body or its cure.

RK believes most cancer patients would be as well served going to an expert holistic healer or a witch-doctor shaman.

We pose this example to show the rather illogical and blind-faith and trust most people put in "science" even when it is not scientific.

There is little doubt dodds's rug is the runt of the litter of all known and genuinely pre-1800 "Bellini" carpets.

We have demonstrated this through comparison here on RugKazbah.com for all to see.

But still, turko-idiots, like price and windle swann, believe a problematic and no more factual C14 date.

Actually, knowingly or not, they are just toadies for dodds and the icoc-acor/hali-ites who do not want to see their leader as the charlatan, carpetbagger, rug know-little and liar he is.

C14 is great for archaeological objects that are over 1000 years old and have been protected from contamination. Having the same confidence level for results from old oriental Rugs is just plain ignorant, stubborn and stupid.

All the above could be used to describe the turko-idiots--any wonder why they are so named?

Author: jc
email: [email protected]
Tue, Jun 5th, 2007 07:13:51 PM

The LACMA/dodds "Bellini" rug was C14 tested at Arizona State University's(ASU) accelerator mass spectrometry(AMS) laboratory. Dr. Timothy Jull is the head scientist there and RK has spoken to him at length about his procedures and processes.

We have spoken to other C14 scientists as well, including Dr. Bonani, who did the testing for rageth's book project.

From our discussions with these two, and several other scientists, we came away believing Dr. Jull was the "man".

However, as impressed as we were with Jull and his methodology one important point needs to be mentioned.

When the Shroud of Turin was tested in 1988, ASU and Jull were chosen as one of the three participating labs.

All three, including ASU/Jull, pronounced the Shroud to be medieval (1250-1360) and not Biblical.

Since then, new tests have been done and those results negate the 1988 results and point to the Shroud being at least twice as old and perhaps even 2000 years old.

We mention this as just another reason to put into proper perspective any C14 date -- they are not fact but, once again, nothing more than opinion.

The inherent problems of calibration and contamination are manifest and anyone who makes light of them, or dismisses them completely as one online turko-idiot recently did, is no better than those who much mistakenly believed the world was flat.

C14 is nothing more than another tool to use in any attempt to date an undated object. It must be used in conjunction with other tools and concerning the LACMA/dodds "Bellini" no honest intellect would place absolute reliance on the C14 date without as seriously considering what an art historical comparison demonstrates.

RK has done already done this and it is online for all to see.

So, like the now discredited C14 dating of the Shroud of Turin, we may all see today's 1460-1650 dating of the LACMA/dodds "Bellini", regardless of the 95.4% probability, also disregarded.

One thing is sure, dodds's "Bellini" doesn't hold a candle in comparison to any other example that genuinely is pre-1700.

Just for grins we would like to republish the picture of the rug which we believe was the "model" and archetype for whoever made the LACMA/dodds "Bellini". It was published as part of our art historical assessment of Turkish "Bellini" re-entrant rugs

Here is our original post concerning this relationship, which like many other we have published about the LACMA/dodds dud of a "Bellini" is still online in our "LACMA's Questionable Rug Purchase" Topic Area.


While the archetypal example illustrated above does not appear on first take to be the model, for the later example LACMA now owns, that dissimilarity begins to dissipate when these two rugs are carefully compared.

The highly unusual, and in fact unique, added elem or border panel the LACMA rug displays at both ends appears to be an "interpretation' of the one our archetype features. This is the strongest link between these two somewhat disparate rugs.

Note the archetypal versions elem panel is only at one end, as another design can be seen in its place at the other end. The use of different designs for elem panels is far more in keeping with pre-19th century weaving traditions and this is just one more criteria implying the LACMA rug is circa 1800, as RK has maintained since beginning our opposition to LACMA's coverup, run and hide the facts modus operandi .

The archetype and the LACMA rug also share a double re-entrant design but this convention is almost unheard of in genuinely old pre-1650 -- "Bellini" rugs.

The examples in the paintings of Bellini and other artists of the 16th century are invariably prayer rugs with only one "re-entrant" at the bottom of the field and not two opposing ones like the archetypal and the LACMA version demonstrate.

By the way, the archetypal example probably dates circa 1700 and comparing the two totally negates any possibility LACMA's is older, or even as old, as it is.

The ragged-leaf border, another design facet found in later post circa 1600, "Bellini" rugs, is another area of common ground. Again the articulation it receives in the archetypal rug runs circles around the plain jane version LACMAs rug advances.

Clearly on every criterion the archetypal example is an older and better rug, although it is more provincial and unbridled than the LACMA example, which apes the "classical" model.

However the stiff uninspired drawing, the monotonous and limited coloration and, most significantly, the displaced and misunderstood design conventions, like placing an inner field demarcated by the borders connecting two 're-entrant' right against the inner guard border, can not help but prove it is a late, genre copy.

Mentioning it in the same breath with the great examples bearing Bellini's name, or even a unique and genuinely old example like our archetype, is nothing more than meaningless hot air.

In fact, in RK's world it is blasphemy and a disgrace to all the weavers who created the masterpieces of Early Turkish Village weaving that have come down to us.

And, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, LACMAs aint one of those.

Author: jc
email: [email protected]
Tue, Jun 5th, 2007 05:28:36 PM

Many types of objects have been dated successfully by C14, but among these there are no weavings.

Perhaps the most famous attempt to C14 date a weaving is, and was, the attempt to prove the Shroud of Turins real age.

Much has been written about this effort and the best summation RK has read was written by William Meacham, who is an archaeologist, not a C14 scientist.

His summation can be found online at this URL:


Meacham discusses the problems and pitfalls of applying C14 dating to the Shroud and, not suprisingly, most of them would be, and are, applicable in considering the results Dr. Gilberg presented in his talk about the LACMA/dodds Bellinirug.

Here is part of his conclusion and RK can not help but believe anyone reading what Meacham wrote would have to view any C14 date of an old Oriental Rug with suspicion and concern.

My own tentative proposal for dating the Shroud is that at least five samples be taken: 1) a single thread from the middle of the cloth, between dorsal and ventral images; 2) a small piece cut just in from the edge next to the site of Raes piece I; 3) a piece of the charred cloth; 4) a piece cut from the side strip next to the site of Raes 11; 5) a piece of the backing cloth sewn on in 1534. The principal samples would be 1 and 2, with 3 possibly confirmatory; 4 would hopefully clarify the question of an added side strip: 5 would be a control for modern contamination. All samples would be subjected to elaborate pretreatment, SEM screening and testing (microchemical, mass spectrometry, micro-Raman) for impurities or intrusive substances such as higher order hydrocarbons, inorganic and organic carbonates. Samples 2-5 would be measured by both gas proportional and accelerator counting. Samples of a least 3sq. cm each would be required for intensive pretreatment (likely to sacrifice a portion of the sample), measurement of fractions, and controls for micro-testing. A total of 12 sq. cm. or so of the relic itself would thus be required. Selvage edges would be avoided, as in the British Museum inter-comparison experiment (Burleigh et al 1985:3). In view of the myriad contamination possibilities, at least two fractions of each sample should be measured, by each counting method, if possible.

In the end, with luck, we would have at least two or three radiocarbon ages in good agreement and possibly, quite possibly, indicative of the true calendrical age of the Shroud linen. That is all we would be justified in claiming. I believe that almost all radiocarbon scientists and archaeologists would concur with the remarks of Johnson et al. (1985:6):

The existence of significant indeterminant errors can never be excluded from any age determination. No method is immune from giving grossly incorrect datings when there are non-apparent problems with the samples originating in the field. The results illustrated [in this paper] show that this situation occurs frequently. (emphasis added).

Regardless of the C-14 result, evidence from other sources would of course remain of considerable importance in the overall evaluation of the age and origin of the relic.

A C-14 age later than the first century would not of course consititute scientific proof of the inauthenticity of the Shroud, since radiocarbon dating is a based on a number of unverifiable assumptions -- the most important in this context being that the carbon extracted from the sample is indeed identical with the carbon absorbed from the environment when the sample was alive. But of course C-14 measurement does usually provide a reliable indication of true calendrical age. As an ultimate authenticity test for the relic, it is a better indicator than boiling in oil. Probably."

Notice how Meacham stresses the need to consider other means of dating in conjunction with any C14 result:

Regardless of the C-14 result, evidence from other sources would of course remain of considerable importance in the overall evaluation of the age and origin of the relic.

What remains unsaid is the fact that when other means of dating the object conflict with the C14 date one might be better served believing these criteria and not the C14.

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