Home > Rug, Kelim, Soumak, Textile Post Archive >c14 dating, Vakiflar rugs & that rag hali
Author:jc
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Thu, Jan 16th, 2014 06:48:18 AM
Topic: c14 dating, Vakiflar rugs & that rag hali

The latest issue of that rag hali contains some interesting proof concerning the use of carbon 14(c14) dating analysis on antique oriental carpets.

The debate -- Are the results of c14 dating for oriental carpets valid or not? – has long been an issue in oriental carpet studies.

In fact it is now more than 30 years RK has been on record as a disbeliever. Not in the process but its application with antique carpets.

Perhaps the most surprising of the divergent c14 dates was the one returned for this well-known Vakiflar rug. We quote that rag hali “The c-14 gave range of AD1490-1670(95.4 per cent). Although this would make everyone right, we would be very surprised to discover that rug was from the 17th century.” RK would agree with Walter Denny, who dates it to the 15th century rather than others who place it 200 years or more later. But we are more surprised at the large 1490-1670 range; and if c14 cannot be relied upon, worse is its failure to identify more precisely a date.

Briefly speaking unless the tested article has been carefully removed from an archaeological site, or some other resting place where it has remained unexposed to various contaminants that can strew and create misleading results, a decontamination process must be undertaken before testing.

And it is this decontamination that is the weak link in the c14 chain.

First there is no single recognized methodology. Different laboratories use different processes, and even in certain labs different procedures are used on different articles.

There is no doubt c14 works; but when the article needs decontamination all bets are off the results can be believed as “science” rather than ‘opinion’ derived from science.

Also, and something that has now finally been admitted by former believers (like that rag hali), samples from the same carpet dated by different labs have returned significantly different results.

So reading their admission, as published in their new issue’s editorial “Age before Beauty”, the c14 testing of three carpets in the Vakiflar has NOT returned results corresponding to accepted art historical analysis/comparison, validates what RK has long been saying both in public and in private.

There is absolutely no doubt the dating of early historic carpets -- be they Persian, Anatolian, Caucasian or Turkmen – is a quagmire.

However, there are signposts which when properly ascertained provide far more than circumstantial dating evidence.

For numerous classical period Persian and Turkish rugs their appearance in western European paintings and Near Eastern miniature and manuscript illuminations are prima facie evidence certain designs and styles existed at least when the paintings and illuminations are known to have been created, if not long before.

This evidence, which is terminus ante quo, unfortunately is not available for Anatolian and Caucasian village weavings or for any type of Turkmen ones.

With these we must rely on comparative art historical analysis. And thanks to the past 40 year publishing boom of carpet books loaded with photographs there now exist enough known pieces to construct a continuum for almost every type and genre.

This is where RK puts his faith.

And when this corresponds with C14 dating great. But just because it does we do not necessarily believe the c14 process is infallible science. It is just another opinion.

And when the c14 date and the art historical analysis differ RK will always come down on the side of the art historical analysis and not c14.

Another arrow in the quiver is how we see c14, but one that must be carefully used and frankly not relied upon to do, at this point, the heavy lifting when it comes to dating early carpets.

Back to the drawing-board is how anyone would interpret the c14 information in that rag hali’s latest issue. But, and we do feel we are repetitiously beating a dead horse, the way the editorial written by ben evans has couched this failure “This (the c14 dates of the Vakiflar carpets) is not conclusive; in my mind it memerly opens up the viewalong(sp) a path already well taken.”, is typical that rag hali-speak.

Long a proponent of the validity of c14 dating for antique carpets the magazine, and its present editor evans, did not have the gumption to admit error, even in light of these new and irrefutable c14 findings.

And rather than honestly admit it evans’s mealy-mouthed excuse those dates are not “conclusive” and just another “view along a path” ring as hollow as a broken bell.

As an addendum we might add that rag hali’s published admission the c14 dating of these Vakiflar carpets failed to return the expected results might very well provide the explanation for the non-appearance of the long heralded, and ever supposedly soon to be published, ‘c14 and Turkmen rug publication’ jurg rageth and others have been squawking about for almost a decade.

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