Greetings John and Happy Decoration Day:
Today is a holiday here in the colonies that was originally established in 1868 to honor America's war dead. But, like most of American History, today's americans don't know the first thing about our Country, its history or how it is being dismantled and destroyed.
OK, enough of that and let's take a look at some of what you wrote -- most of which, by the way, RK agrees with.
"I think that there are few truly SCIENTIFIC techniques that can be used to assist in determining the age of rugs."
RK agrees but please realize the testing we refer to has nothing to do with age determination. Rather the testing we are interested in undertaking is purely to forensically examine the physical nature of selected weaving groups.
"Carbon dating has its problems."
Here, here mate don't we agree. C14 analysis is, frankly, nothing more than an opinion, as no result is positive but only relative in nature. We have discussed our views on C14 and need not repeat them here.
"For natural dyes (anything that has a synthetic dye is modern and therefore ignored for this discussion), the mordant is as, if not more important than the dye itself in determining the place where the wool was dyed."
Yes, the mordant is an important component but there are others as well. Examining them and collating those findings into a database is, in essence, what RK intends to do.
This says nothing about where it was woven because the dyed wool could have been traded, It is an indicator.
Yes, true but if the materials a rug is composed of can be located geographically it would be a giant step.
"Structral analysis is not scientific - pseudo scientific at best."
RK does not agree. If the structural analysis is competently done the resulting data on, for instance, the spin and ply of the fibers and the exact style of weaving utilized is positively scientific and RK is surprised at your being a doubting-thomas in this regard. Perhaps, you would like to further explain your position?
"Forensic analysis of DNA might allow particular weaving families to be identified which may solve the "who" but not the "where"."
Again, knowing the "who", regardless of the fact the "where" is unknown, would be another giant step.
"To me, the design continuum (not scientific) offers the best indication of age - the secong rug just looks older than the first - but is it?"
Art historical analysis is presently the most salient technique to determine where a particular example belongs on the design continuum that can be formed for almost any weaving type. Honestly, we believe this technique to be miles ahead of C14 analysis and far more valuable to answer “how old is it” questions.
"How do we KNOW (scientifically?).
Of course, the real question is "Does it really matter?"."
Until there is a scientific database of rug criteria/characteristics this question will remain unanswered. With it, RK is sure, we will come a long way on the road to solve these mysteries.
"A whole bunch of disciplines and their practitioners like to consider themselves as "scientific". Few are."
True, true but this occurs in every field, not only scientists. How many rug dealers really know about historic rugs? Or, for the matter, how many collectors really know what they are buying?
As for the comparison of the two MAD pieces in this post?
Well, take it from RK, the upper piece is probably 100 years newer than the other.
Age is not always commensurate with beauty but most of the time, especially with non-Classical non-urban examples, the older are mostly the more beautiful.
But, that said, the older examples are frequently damaged and most eyes would be detracted by this circumstance. Forget about the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” adage.
As far as RK is concerned, we would always rather own a historic and damaged example than one that is not historic but in good condition.