Distinguishing between seemingly identical inks using scanning µXRF and heat maps

Grzegorz Nehring, Nehemia Gordon, Ira Rabin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This study will present a new approach to distinguishing writing inks that have the same elemental compositions and visual appearances. The approach is based on displaying the intensity of elemental distributions as heat maps that represent data recorded with a scanning µX-ray fluorescence spectrometer. The heat maps present the data so as to facilitate digitally identifying and distinguishing between inks used to produce, correct, and reink two medieval Torah scrolls. As ritual objects, Torah scrolls had to be written in accordance with exacting standards that evolved over time. This requirement led to successive stages of modifications, sometimes over centuries. Both vitriolic and non-vitriolic inks used to modify Torah scrolls can be visually identical to each other. Furthermore, different non-vitriolic inks usually have an identical elemental composition. The solid material analysis evidence and its presentation as heat maps made it possible to discriminate between original and altered portions of text that in some cases would have been impossible. Our interdisciplinary work brought together conservation, material science, paleography, and philology to enable the identification of complex stratigraphy in multiple stages of production, correction, and reinking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-148
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Heat maps
  • Non-vitriolic iron-gall inks
  • Scanning micro-X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy
  • Scribal corrections
  • Torah scrolls
  • Vitriolic iron-gall inks


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