Scientific Dating of Art Works: Evaluation or Cultural Exclusion?

By Yin Cheng Jin.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 8, 2016 $US5.00

Carbon-14 dating is a scientific procedure that has been used since the beginning of the last century to date organic items recovered from archaeological excavations. In terms of artefacts, modern-day scientific tests involving thermoluminescence and particle-induced X-ray emission have been found to be useful in dating of the objects. However, such testing does not take into consideration the cultural or historical factors surrounding the creation of the artefact. These factors are important because they give meaning to the artefact and help to “complete the picture” surrounding its origin and value. This review describes some of the pitfalls of relying exclusively on modern scientific dating tests by citing the controversy surrounding the dating of a pair of Chinese vases. It stresses the importance of including cultural and historical factors in the evaluation procedure and describes a number of other artefacts—held in public and private collections—that have featured in media reports and which have provoked controversy in the art world and amongst historians.

Keywords: Evaluating Art Work, Curatorial Performance, Scientific Test

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.39-49. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 8, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 903.439KB)).

Yin Cheng Jin

Ph.D Candidate, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland, Richmond, Victoria, Australia


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