Guitty Azarpay, J. G. Barabe, K. A. Martin, and A. S. Teetsov, Analysis of Writing Materials in Middle Persian Documents

Leather document, courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

The Pahlavi Archive, a collection of Middle Persian documents at the University of California’s Bancroft Library at Berkeley, comprises over 260 parchment/leather and textile manuscripts, 82 with clay bullae, which are dated to the early post-Sasanian period in Iran. This paper addresses the questions of the composition and characteristics of the ink, textile, and leather used in writing materials in light of recent scientific analyses conducted by Dr. Kathleen Martin and her associates at McCrone Group Associates, Inc. Analysis of a random selection of document fragments using several micro-analytic techniques by these scientists indicates that the ink used to write the documents is carbon-based lamp black (rather than iron gall ink), a common black pigment employed in ink-making through Islamic times. A leather fragment, randomly selected from among the Berkeley documents, is parchment manufactured from goat or kid skin and, finally, the textile used as a writing material in the Berkeley collection is in fact linen, rather than silk as earlier believed.


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