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icon Papier


Paper (from Latin/Greek papyrus) is a material made mainly from plant fibres. The paper-like material papyrus comes from the stems of reed plants from the banks of the river Nile, which were used as a media to write on. Paper produced according to todays methods originated in China around 100 A.D. and spread all over the world as writing and decorative material. It is found in Europe since the 11th century and was produced there by machines starting in the Middle Ages. The raw materials for paper production at that time were mainly rags made of linen, hemp or cotton. Today paper consists of cellulose fibres, which are mainly obtained from wood. Due to their longer cellulose fibres, softwoods have better properties for paper production than hardwoods. Basically, most plants are suitable for paper production because their cell walls consist of cellulose.

Paper is a witness of human activity and thus an object of archaeology. A very important archaeometric method for paper analysis is 14C dating for the chronological classification of the use of paper. This also includes the authenticity determination of documents. However, 14C dating of paper is subject to a significant limitation. The time of the paper production cannot be determined, but only the age of the source material. Thus, the papers age is equal to the age of the wood from which it was made. Paper made from wood of an old tree or from the inside of a tree therefore provides an older age than paper made from younger wood. Thus the age of a wood is often an “age mixture” of all the woods used.

Sample properties

14C dating

An ideal sample quantity is at least 10-20 mg. This amount corresponds to the area of half a thumbnail. The paper should not be preserved or written on, since both preservatives and ink contain carbon, which could falsify the age. Please contact the laboratory if the sample quantities are much smaller.