During 2014, the Ivory Education Institute undertook to find a non-destructive, non-invasive, inexpensive, and reasonably rapid way to determine the age and type of all ivory objects.
We thought that if we had a scientifically acceptable means of determining what objects were made from poached ivory and what objects were worked from older tusks, we could blunt the demand to ban all trade and movement of any object made from or containing ivory.
We engaged Dr. Adolf P. Shvedchikov of the Institute of Chemical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences to study the issue. After reviewing the latest advances in laser technology and spectrographic analysis, Dr. Shvedchikov determined that measuring the rate at which various ivory pieces de-absorb moisture held the most promise to meet IEI’s research goal.
He has just completed a new round of tests that consumed nearly 250 hours in which various different types of ivory, bone, vegetable, and plastic were subjected to the same meticulous examination. Each ivory sample was sorted between what was known in the laboratory as “old ivory” (estimated to be more than 100 years old), “classic ivory” (50 to 70 years old) and “new ivory” (approximately 30 to 50 years old.) Each sample was then cut to approximately the same size, exposed to the same atmospheric conditions, and weighed over a 20-hour period in an enclosed chamber at room temperature. The difference between the initial and closing weight was then plotted. Dr. Shvedchikov is pleased with the results. His graphs show a clear difference between each type of material tested as well the approximate age of the material. In brief, the younger the ivory, the more moisture it holds and releases; the older the ivory, the less moisture it can absorb and de-absorb. Bone and other materials have their own distinctive moisture signatures. As a proof of the basic concept, every form of plastic subjected to the test showed no changes in weight.
We are now at a point in the scientific protocol that requires us to demonstrate the efficacy of the process. We have made arrangements with the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia to take one half of the same sample of ivory we have already tested and subject it to a Carbon 14 dating test. We want to find out how accurate our de-absorption techniques are to the widely accepted carbon dating methodology.
But that takes money. The University of George charges $550 per sample tested. The testing takes a month and the sample is destroyed in the process. We need at least 21 samples tested from the old, classic and young categories to credibly determine the accuracy and efficacy of our method. We also have to pay for the continuing expenses of our laboratory and the costs of managing the effort. In short, we now estimate that we need $15,700 to continue our work through the summer. Can you help us? If each recipient of this EMail were to send $80, we would get there.
Many of you have very generously supported our efforts in the past with a contribution. It has helped us get to this point. Frankly, what we have done in a few short months is more than the government or any museum or laboratory has done in the last 100 years on the specific question of finding a new dating and differentiation technique. It is also more than the literature tells us the Chinese, Germans, or Italians are currently doing. But we have to go even further if we are to change attitudes and practices. We need to be in a position to get all of our numbers to ± 10 years estimate, publish our results, seek peer review of our data, and urge the adoption of the methodology as part of the continuing worldwide effort to protect elephants.
Making a contribution to our research is something positive, beneficial, specific and tax deductible that each of you and your colleagues can do right now to ensure that collectors can continue to preserve and protect the artifacts of the world’s cultures. We would welcome any amount you can send to the address below or donate online via PayPal (credit card or PayPal account). Of course, if you have any questions, please be in touch.
By Mail please send your donation to:
Ivory Education Institute
520 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 204
Los Angeles, CA 90049-3534
Godfrey (Jeff) Harris
Principal Representative, Political Action Network
International Ivory Society
Managing Director, Ivory Education Institute
Tel: + (1) 310 476 6374
Fax: + (1) 310 471 3276
Mobile: + (1) 213 500 8037