A friend and colleague forwarded a recent article from the journal The Art Newspaper for February 2010 describing the research that went into a discovery that a manuscript previously thought to be a 14th Century text of the Gospel of Mark is in fact a fake.
The ongoing debate as to the codex’s authenticity re-ignited in 2006 with its digitisation, giving international experts an opportunity to examine the work closely for the first time. Beginning in 2007, Margaret Mitchell, Alice Schreyer and Judith Dartt from the university collaborated with research microscopist Joseph Barabe from the Illinois-based lab McCrone Associates, and manuscript conservator Abigail Quandt from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, to perform a cross-discipline, in-depth analysis of the codex.
Barabe conducted a material and elemental analysis on Archaic Mark which involved the use of a wide variety of techniques including x-ray diffraction, raman spectroscopy, polarised light, x-ray spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy. He was particularly interested in determining whether the codex had undergone an earlier restoration which would account for the presence of various “modern” shades of blue including synthetic ultramarine blue—a material not available until the 1820s. He found no evidence of a prior restoration and most importantly determined that the white colour used contained the pigment lithopone which was not available until 1874, thereby setting an 1874 terminus post quem date for the codex. Carbon dating was used to determine that the canvas dates from the mid 16th century.