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New technique could help solve many historical puzzles - but help is needed to start the proc

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  • judith weingarten
    (forwarded from John Hill, author of *Through The Jade Gate to Rome* [wynhill2@bigpond.net.au] as FYI on this new ^M2S^sm technique.) Dear friends and
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2012
      (forwarded from John Hill, author of *Through The Jade Gate to Rome*
      [wynhill2@...] as FYI on this new ^M2S^sm technique.)

      Dear friends and colleagues:
      Some years ago I came across the use of new scientific techniques to
      establish the provenance of ancient gems which caused minimal damage to
      the samples. Spectrographic analysis allowed the identification of a
      gemstone in a Gallo-Roman earring (c. 3rd to 6th centuries CE) as being
      an emerald mined in Swat – in northern Pakistan. (See: Giuliani, et al
      (2000): “Oxygen Isotopes and Emerald Trade Routes Since Antiquity.”
      /Science/, January 28, 2000, pp. 631-633. I reported on this interesting
      fact in my book, /Through the Jade Gate to Rome/ (2009), p. 501.
      Since then I have kept a look out for new developments. Just recently I
      noticed in the the April 2012 edition of /National Geographic/ Magazine
      a brief notice that a company named Materyalitics was using a new
      technique for provenancing gems. I sent an enquiry by email to the
      company in Texas and quickly received a friendly reply which, amongst
      other things, said their technique could be used to provenance a wide
      range of materials, not just gems.

      “. . . And more importantly: gems have been only our starting point.
      In fact, our ^M2S^sm technology can be applied to virtually any
      materials that seem important to people, and we've enjoyed talking
      about testing archaeological and fossil artifacts. The problem is
      that archaeologists and paleontologists tend not to have the money
      it takes to build the necessary Reference Collections and Reference
      Databases to serve their needs, while manufacturers of high-tech
      devices do. It may take a while to get to the artifacts.

      On the other hand, we have done a great deal of testing of
      beryls...which include emeralds, and have already created a fairly
      substantial Reference Database that might be useful. In fact, we
      must have samples from the Panjshir Valley. (I'm not sure, but the
      name rings a bell.)

      It has been pointed out to us that a good emerald mined in
      Afghanistan may be worth $X...but if that same emerald can be
      transported somehow to Colombia, magically being transformed into a
      Colombian Emerald in the process, it may then be worth $10X. This
      encourages shenanigans that our technology may help to inhibit.
      Reading your first email, our Research Director commented that it
      would be fascinating if a stone traditionally considered to have
      come from somewhere else proved to be Colombian...perhaps in ancient
      and unsuspected times. No one knows, and there must be interesting
      surprises to find.

      It seems possible that silk, to pick a material at random, could be
      traced to its source. We haven't looked at silk, but one supposes
      that worms eating mulberry leaves acquire distinctive chemical
      makeup characteristic of the soil in which those trees grew, that
      transfers to their cocoons. This speculation is not entirely idle,
      and it's intriguing, but no database of silks exists, and the cost
      of someone's creating a comprehensive database would run to hundreds
      of thousands of dollars, at least. The return on investment seems
      unappealingly low for anyone but an uncommonly well-to-do scholar
      eager to know more about silk than anyone now knows.

      What other materials that are worth tracing originated at points
      along the Silk Routes? ...and so on. Just notions to think about. .
      . . .

      *Nels Winkless*
      Communications Director
      Materialytics, LLC
      Office Phone: 254-226-9639
      N.Winkless@... <mailto:N.Winkless@...>
      www.materialytics.com <http://www.materialytics.com>

      This was the first time I had heard of being able to provenance
      materials such as silk, so I wrote back immediately asking whether
      provenancing silks was a real possibility, he replied that, yes it could
      be done, but it would be expensive as it would involve the collection
      and testing of many samples:

      “. . . The whole matter of building a database of silks…from wild
      worms, cultivated worms, mollusks, or whatever, is very interesting,
      though the chances of doing it are very low, considering the cost .
      Just so you know what the procedure is, I’ll give you an outline.

      The ^^Materialytics^^sm Sequencing System (^^M2S^^sm ) does not look
      for a list of features (chemical composition, color, specific
      gravity, or any of that) when it examines a material.

      It looks at one sample of material from a known source, a gem from a
      particular mine or district, or an apple from a particular orchard,
      or a metal part produced on a particular production line, for
      example, and records whatever spectral data it finds.

      It doesn’t know, and doesn’t have to know, what the data represent.
      It collects millions of data points from the sample.

      It then looks at another well-documented sample from the same
      source, the same way, recording whatever it finds.

      M2S looks at a “statistically significant” number of samples from
      each source.

      It looks at a statistically significant number of points on each
      sample. It stores all that data. It’s a LOT of data.

      Traditionally, among statisticians the smallest “significant” number
      of samples is thirty. We typically analyze several times than many
      samples from each source. Similarly, we analyze several times thirty
      points on each sample to accommodate variability in the material.

      The data from all laser shots on each sample are processed to create
      a ^^Quantagenetic^^sm Sequence” of that sample.

      The Quantagentic Sequences of all of the samples from a single
      source (mine, factory, orchard, whatever it is the samples have in
      common that it of interest to us) are processed to create a
      Quantagenetic Signature that characterizes materials from that source.

      When we have analyzed material from all of the sources that may be
      of interest to whoever is paying for the work, we have created a
      Reference Database with which to compare samples of material whose
      source is not known.

      We test an unknown sample the same way we did the Reference Samples,
      but with only a few laser shots. The data are processed the same
      way. The resulting Quantagenetic Sequence of the unknown sample is
      compared with the Quantagenetic Sequences in the Reference Database,
      to see if there’s a match with any signature.

      In the case of gems, the average accuracy of matching (if there is a
      match) is over 98%. We really have been able to track the provenance
      of unknowns to the specific mines they came from…IF…we have enough
      data in the Reference Database. The accuracy of M2S increases as the
      size of the Reference Database increases. M2S gains more
      "experience” with the world.


      Anyone interested in pursuing this should contact John Hill (and not me).

      All good wishes,

      Judith Weingarten
      Belforte (Si), Italy

      Visit Zenobia's blog at Empress of the East
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