Chapter 11: A "Splendid Galaxy of Expert Opinions"

M. A. Mansoor and his sons had been meeting regularly with Dr. Fred Stross. In 1957 and 1958, they were given many names of renowned scientists in the fields of Geology, Petrology, Mineralogy, Chemistry, Microchemistry and Geochemistry for further technical examinations of the sculptures. As it would have been costly and time consuming to give all the sculptures to the scientists in turn, it was decided to send each of them, one, two or a few more pieces. The purpose of the study would be to determine the time elapsed since the surface of the objects was shaped. If the surface proved ancient, it would follow that the sculptures were ancient. Dr. Zaki Iskandar and Mustafa had already done a credible job on this subject. What the Mansoors needed now were more technical tests made by other eminent scientists in the United States to second their favorable opinion.

To my knowledge, no Ancient Works of Art have been subjected to as many and varied scientific tests as the Mansoor sculptures of Tell-El-Amarna.

Numerous methods of examination were applied. Every aspect of the nature of the stone: surface patination, dendritic formations, erosion, surface pitting, organic excretions, resistance of the patina to solvents, chemical explanation of the patina formation, etc., was studied, and rational scientific evidence was given clearly and in detail as a result of each and every test. All the examining scientists were unanimous in their conclusion that the sculptures are genuine antiquities. The following are the names of these investigators whose reports and opinions the Mansoors have obtained in writing:

Mr. Alfred Lucas, Chief Chemist of the Research Laboratory of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.1942.

Dr. Zaki Iskandar, Chief Chemist of the Research Laboratory of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Then Director General for Technical Affairs, Department of Antiquities, Egypt; and Dr. Zahira Mustafa, Chemist, Research Laboratory, Egyptian Museum, Cairo, November 28,1950.

Dr. Robert R. Compton, Professor of Geology, Stanford University, California. Dec. 18, 1958.

Dr. Eliot Blackwelder, Professor of Geology, Emeritus, Stanford University, Member of the National Academy of Sciences. February 6, 1959.

Dr. Robert E. Arnal, Professor of Geology, San Jose State University. March 7, 1959.

Dr. Paul L. Kirk, Professor of Microchemistry, University of California, Berkeley; Technical Investigations, Berkeley. March 16, 1959.

Dr. Leon Silver, Geochemistry Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, Member of the National Academy of Sciences. March 27, 1959.

Dr. Jack De Ment, De Ment Laboratories, Portland Oregon. June 17, 1959.

Dr. C. Osborne Hutton, Professor of Mineralogy, Stanford University, February 21, 1960.

Dr. Francis J. Turner, Professor of Geology, University of California, Berkeley; Member of the National Academy of Sciences. February 23, 1960.

Dr. Fred H. Stross, Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. March 1960.

Dr. John W. Gruner, Professor of Geology and Mineralogy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. October 11, 1960.

Dr. Harold J. Plenderleith, formerly Keeper of the Research Laboratory of the British Museum, then Director, International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (UNESCO), Rome. April 24, 1961.

Dr. Fred H. Stross, Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley. 1965.

Prof. Dr. Reiner RR Protsch, Department of Palaeoanthropology and Archaeometry, J.W.Goethe University (FB-16), Frankfurt/Main-GFR. (Germany). 12.1.1976.

Dr. Rainer Berger, Professor of Anthropology, Geography and Geophysics, University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA), 1976.

Dr. Pierre Bariand, Conservateur de la Collection De Minéraux de l'Univérsité Pierre et Marie Curie, (Sorbonne), Paris, France. June 25, 1980.

Furthermore, all these scientists have commented on the report of Mr. Young, and some have criticized it in harsher terms than others.

The comments of the Scientists:

Dr. Francis J. Turner, Professor of Geology, University of California, Berkeley, Member of the National Academy of Sciences, 1960. I quote from the San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle of February 9, 1969:

Prof. Francis J. Turner of the University of California has been awarded the Lyell Medal of the Geology Society of London, one of the highest honors in his scientific field. The medal is given annually in the name of Sir Charles Lyell, one of the founders of modern geology and is rarely awarded to an American . . . . The medal will be presented to Dr. Turner on April 23 in London at the annual meeting of the society, the oldest body of its kind in the world. Dr. Turner, a specialist on petrology, and author and co-author of many books and scientific papers, was awarded the medal on the basis of his overall work in this field. He has received many other academic honors, including the Sterling Fellowship from Yale University, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Hector Medal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and a Fullbright Fellowship. His major work, co-authored with UC geophysicist John Verhoogen, "Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology," is a standard text for advanced students in geological research and has been translated into several languages . . . .

On February 23, 1960, Professor Turner stated:

After a rather cursory examination of the three sculptured heads submitted by you, and a careful perusal of the complete file of reports and correspondence on the Amarna limestone heads, I am glad to offer the following comments:

(1) I do not know of any scientific test by which the relative age (even "ancient" versus "modern") of a sculptured stone surface can be determined with certainty. Any statement regarding the modern or ancient age of the sculptured surfaces which you submitted to me can only be a matter of opinion. Such an opinion, it is true, may be relatively sound if it is consistent with convincing evidence scientifically established by adequate techniques; or, in the absence of such evidence, it may be dismissed as scientifically worthless speculation.

(2) Since you have already obtained a number of reports from well known experts in various appropriate fields who have examined the sculptures by a wide variety of techniques, it would serve no good purpose for me or any other petrographer to go over the same ground again. The authenticity of the heads must be judged on the basis of reports now available, taking into account also the opinion (not yet received) of my colleague, Professor C. O. Hutton, Stanford University, who enjoys the highest reputation in the field of microchemical mineralogy.

(3) Certain of the reports submitted by you - notably those by R. R. Compton (1958), R.E. Arnal (1959), P.L. Kirk (1959) and L.T. Silver (1959) - are models of clarity and scientific reasoning. The methods used are clearly stated, the evidence so obtained is set out in detail, and conclusions are stated without ambiguity. These consultants are scientists highly skilled in applying special techniques in investigating minerals and stones.

(4) The report of W. J. Young (4-14-1949) by contrast carries no conviction. The evidence cited by him gives no indication of the relative age of the sculptured stone surfaces. His comments are couched in language that in places is meaningless to a scientist (e.g. the last lines in his comments on specimens 223 and 124). The report and appended "report and conclusions" cannot be taken seriously as a solution to your problem.

(5) In the American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 61, pp.248-249, 1957, there appears a published article by W. J. Young, reporting on the nature of the marble from which was carved a statue of Trajan in the Fogg Museum. This report deals with aspects of the petrography, texture and chemistry of marble in which I claim some degree of expert knowledge. In my opinion, the techniques employed by Mr. Young, in this case, were unsuited to the problem and could not be expected to contribute to its solution. Other techniques, adequate to solve the problem, he ignored. The conclusions reached by him regarding the Fogg Trajan were, in my opinion, completely without foundation. From this limited experience I am inclined to view Mr. Young's pronouncements on mineralogical and petrographic problems with some skepticism.

(6) The evidence collectively supplied in the reports submitted to me, is consistent with the opinion of the majority of your consultants, that the heads are authentic ancient sculptures. I see no reason against accepting them as authentic.

Dr. C. Osborne Hutton, Prof. of Mineralogy, Stanford University, Stanford, California, 1960. In reviewing the aforementioned reports, Professor Hutton wrote:

All of the reports, except that due to Mr. W. J. Young, present evidence along many lines that lead to only one conclusion, namely, that the objects studied are genuine antiquities. Furthermore, the data set out in the sole report that casts doubt upon the authenticity of the objects (W. J. Young) are, in my opinion, imprecisely expressed and scientifically unsound in a number of respects. In this connection at least two points should be clearly understood:

1) Mr. Young expresses the opinion that because the objects studied by him fluoresce in ultraviolet light, under the conditions imposed by him, they are necessarily, of recent manufacture. I believe that the data and statements set out by the De Ment Laboratories and by Dr. Robert E. Arnal effectively destroy Mr. Young's position in this direction.

2) If I have interpreted his phraseology correctly, Mr. Young states that the form of the dendrites in the sculptures points to absence of antiquity. Dr. Robert Compton, and Dr. Leon Silver in particular, point out that there has been growth or creep of manganese oxide and/or hydroxides at the surface, and that erosion has caused the manganese oxide/hydroxide efflorescences to exhibit some relief above the limestone surface. These findings, by the latter two investigators, definitely support the belief that the surfaces are of considerable age, and contradict Mr. Young's position on this matter.

Furthermore, the characteristics of the erosion surfaces, together with the relief and polish exhibited by foraminifera and other organic remains, the lack of evidence of artificial polish on some broken, but not very recent, surfaces, the gradation of thin surface patina into less altered limestone, and several other situations, clearly support the conclusion of great age. Furthermore, there is no need to go into the question of the nature of the stone used because this has been shown quite definitely to be natural limestone devoid of any "paste" or artificial filling.

There is one line of evidence however, that is in my opinion, of very special significance; this concerns the data obtained by Dr. Silver on the relative amounts of several critical trace elements in the surface of the stone, and the interior of the objects tested. Dr. Silver has found definite evidence of relative enrichment of the outer surfaces in manganese, barium and copper, whether the color is gray or yellow, and this critical evidence, more than anything else, weighs most heavily in favor of the antiquity of the objects studied. In fact, this is the only plausible explanation that may be offered to account for the selective enrichment of the surface layers in these elements.

After a careful consideration of the data set out in all the reports submitted for review, I am of the opinion that the weight of evidence is most definitely in favor of the genuine antiquity of the sculptures studied by the investigators, and I am unable to find any significant, or critical, data that would support Mr. W. J. Young's conclusions in any way whatsoever.

Dr. Fred H. Stross, Research Associate, Archaeological Research Facility, Department of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley; participating guest, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, UC Berkeley, which is world-famous for its advanced and pioneering research in nuclear physics and chemistry, including neutron activation analysis for archaeological objectives. He is also consultant to the Lowie Museum of Anthropology as well as The University Art Museum at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Stross has organized symposia and has lectured internationally on the application of the physical sciences to archaeology and authentication of art objects.

The positive and absolute conviction of Dr. Stross regarding the Mansoor Amarna Collection cannot be told in a few pages or chapters. From 1949 to date, this eminent scientist has been seriously interested in the Collection, studying in detail every single object as well as the reports pertaining to the Collection. Besides his striking and unequivocal first articles on the sculptures, "Authentication of Antique Stone Objects by Physical and Chemical Methods," which appeared in Analytical Chemistry March 1960, 32:17A, and besides his private publication in association with Mr. W. J. Eisenlord titled "A Report on a Group of Limestone Carvings Owned by M. A. Mansoor and Sons" 1965, which was distributed to many museums, Egyptologists and others, Dr. Stross has given numerous lectures and written many articles on the Collection. The conclusion of his first article reads: "Thus the expanded armamentarium of the chemist and spectroscopist offers weapons to the collector and student of the ancient arts that in many cases should convince the most skeptical individual as surely as the advent of radiocarbon dating has done in its field of application."

Dr. Robert R. Compton, Professor of Geology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, was the first American scientist to be contacted in the USA, in 1958. He studied thirteen sculptures, including the nearly life-size bust of Akhenaten, the largest in the Mansoor Collection. He was also given the report of Young dated April 14, 1949, and the one of Iskandar and Mustafa dated November 28, 1950. Professor Compton Wrote:

Finally, with regard to the two reports already made on the Mansoor Collection, that one dated 28/11/1950 [of Iskandar and Mustafa] seems to me to be well founded petrologically. It covers many items that only someone with knowledge of Egyptology could present, and I note that this report concludes that the pieces are authentic. The report dated April 14, 1949, [W. J. Young's MFA Boston] is based mainly on petrologic and mineralogic points, and I feel that most of these are weak, to say the least. As far as I can see, the flouresence tests offer nothing to indicate the pieces are not old, nor does the author state just what is the "false condition" he refers to. His comments on his microscopic examinations, too, offer nothing tangible to cause question of the age and authenticity of the pieces, yet he somehow concludes that the pieces are "of fairly modern origin." Perhaps his error has been in comparing these pieces with ancient pieces that were weathered under different conditions- probably mainly exposed at the surface; however, it is impossible to judge his conclusions critically since he offers little evidence of how he arrived at them.

My own conclusions may be summarized as follows:

1) The pieces are entirely of natural stone, with no fillings or paste of any kind.

2) All are weathered in a mechanical way that is exactly suitable to the conditions under which they are reported to have been found.

3) Attempts to duplicate this weathering by chemical means produced an entirely different effect than that on the surface of the pieces.

4) All other surface effects observed point strongly to the fact that the pieces are not forgeries.

5) Taking this work and the other reports together, it can safely be concluded that these sculptures are of ancient origin.

Dr. Eliot Blackwelder, Professor of Geology, Emeritus, Stanford University, California, Member of the National Academy of Sciences, wrote on February 6, 1959:

I do not find the report of Mr. Young convincing. For many of his assertions he has supplied no satisfactory evidence.

Dr. Robert E. Arnal, Professor of Geology, San Jose State University, California, 1959. In his evaluation of previous reports, Professor Arnal wrote:

I have read three reports evaluating the sculptures of the Mansoor Collection. The excellent report of Professor Compton, Stanford University, is obviously that of a well qualified geologist. He brings several good lines of evidence, especially concerning the mechanical weathering, which favors strongly the authenticity of the sculptures. The report of Dr. Zaki Iskandar dated Nov. 28, 1950 is very extensive and indicates a broad knowledge of Egyptology. All his conclusions also favor the authenticity of the sculptures. On the contrary the report of Mr. Young of the Boston Museum is mostly the expression of an opinion based on very weak evidence to say the least. (In his detailed and extensive report, Professor Arnal is indeed precise and unequivocal).

I will summarize my conclusions by saying that:

1. The sculptures are made entirely of natural rock, which contains no artificial fillling.

2. The weathered surface is a natural one and was produced over a long period of time.

3. The flouresence method is not reliable and any opinion on the authenticity of these sculptures based on the use of this method should be disregarded.

4. The artistic value of these sculptures has been established by one of the foremost experts in the field. [Dr. E. Drioton]

5. It can be stated that these sculptures are authentic and of ancient origin.

The entire outstanding Report of Professor Leon T. Silver, Geochemistry Laboratory, Division of Geological Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,California, 1959, is reproduced in "Je Cherche un Homme..." pp. 30-34.

In their authoritative "A Report on a Group of Limestone Carvings Owned by M. A. Mansoor and Sons," Dr. Fred H. Stross and Mr. William J. Eisenlord wrote (p. 16):

Perhaps the most incontrovertible evidence, however, was contributed by Professor Silver. The method used for the purpose is based upon recent discoveries, and was ingeniously developed for the case under study. The principle is simply that objects exposed to the action of desert weathering conditions suffer the surface change known as patination, not only physically, but also chemically.

In 1958, Engel and Sharp showed that in natural desert patina, the so-called "desert varnish" manganese oxides are invariably enriched more than most other elements. This enrichment process is a very slow one whose precise rate or mechanism is not known, but geologists consider this a reliable indicator of ancient weathered surfaces.

Silver took several samples from the surface of two objects, as well as the interior of the same object. When comparing the compositions of the samples taken from the interior with those taken from the surface by spectroscopic analysis, he found in both cases that the surface samples showed a significant enrichment in manganese, and even more distinctly in barium and copper, all elements mentioned by Engel and Sharp as being among those showing greatest enrichment in the varnish.

In summarizing the superficial effects of the two processes, weathering and patination,which in some ways work against each other, Kirk has stated that it would be difficult to conceive of forging either of them as observed, but impossible to imagine them being achieved together. Even more remote is the possibility of artificially achieving the more far-reaching effects described in the preceeding paragraphs, especially since it would have had to be done before the 1920's or nearly thirty-five years before the discovery of the selective enrichment of certain elements in "desert varnish."

Dr. Paul L. Kirk, Professor of Microchemistry, University of California, Berkeley, wrote in 1959:

Brief examination was made of several small sculptured articles supplied by Mr. E. Mansoor from his collection. One of these, a head four and a half inches in length, sculptured from a brownish-pink limestone, was examined more extensively.

The sole report in which the authenticity of these sculptures is brought into question is that of W. J. Young. His report is chiefly impressive for its lack of reasoned conclusions, and the distinct impression that he is expressing only a personal opinion that he does not believe the sculptures to be genuine; hence any observation he makes is so interpreted. His conclusions from examination with ultraviolet light cannot be given unqualified acceptance by anyone experienced in this technique.

The additional reports give support to the authenticity of the objects as being of ancient origin, and excellent experimental work and logical conclusions are present to a degree in most of them. It can be accepted that the material is genuine limestone, containing many Foraminifera, and various mineral inclusions other than calcium carbonate. Dendrites of manganic oxide are apparent, more commonly in fissures than on the surface in the specimen examined.

In his summary, Dr. Kirk wrote:

Comparison of the possibilities of genuine antiquity as the cause of the condition of the surface of the object examined with those of counterfeiting of this condition indicates very strongly that the object is in its present condition as a result of long weathering.

The erosion of the surface, along with its patina, could not have been duplicated so precisely by rapid methods without leaving telltale failures and errors that could be located and interpreted.

Not only the surface itself, but the markings on it, the erosion around raised manganic oxide particles, and other detailed features, are all in accord with the genuine antiquity of the object examined.

Dr. Jack De Ment, De Ment Laboratories, Portland, Oregon, 1959, wrote:

At the outset, from a study of the Young report, it is very clear that Mr. Young:

a) did not fully understand the tool with which he was working, i.e. the ultraviolet lamp:

b) and compounded upon this lack of understanding did not properly and correctly interpret such results as he may have obtained . . . .

In view of the foregoing remarks, and in the carefully considered opinion of the present investigator, the report of Mr. W. J. Young, dated 14 April 1949, wherin Mr. Young's so-called "purple fluoresence" is alleged to "clearly indicate that the pieces in question are of fairly modern origin" is:

a) weak, subjective, and without meaning as set forth in its present form;

b) fraught with erroneous conclusions based upon inadequate experience and understanding with and of ultraviolet light and fluorescence compounded with a complete inability to interpret the results of visual fluorescence analysis;

c) indicative of lack of objectivity and lack of carefulness an otherwise competent scientist would rely upon;

d) to be completely disregarded in any serious appraisal of a body of evidence relating to the authenticity, or lack of same, of the Mansoor sculpturings.

For his "Summary and Conclusions," Dr. De Ment reported:

Professor John W. Gruner, Geology and Mineralogy, University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, wrote on October 11, 1960:

In later years, other important scientific reports on the Collection were obtained. Together with the preceding ones, they formed a solid mass of irrefutable scientific evidence, never before achieved in the study of ancient works of art.

It is important to mention that numerous letters were written by eminent scientists in the United States, Europe and Egypt to fellow scientists, all commenting most favorably on the reports and the excellence and relevance of the technical and sophisticated methods used to obtain the evidence.

The Mansoors also have some letters written by Mr. Young, dated from the late forties, after he had declared on October 27, 1947, that the limestone "appears not to be a natural material" and that "it shows all the indications of being a made stone which could be fabricated in a great many ways . . . . In my opinion, the above two heads are of fairly modern origin. A full report will follow in the near future."

In Mr. Young's letter, dated March 3, 1948, he wrote: "Regarding the examination of the pieces [nine Amarnas] left in our care, I am sorry that we have not as yet come to a definite conclusion. We are waiting for further information regarding the stone from the Geology Department at Harvard. I have been promised this information within the next week or ten days." The answer Mr. Young was expecting from Harvard was that the stone was fabricated. But the information which came was that the stone was indeed a natural foraminiferous limestone-consequently not "a made stone which could be fabricated in a great many ways."

In Mr. Young's letter, dated September 22, 1948, he said: "Thank you for your letter. I had a very successful time in Europe this summer and have just started to pick up the loose ends at the Museum. I'd very much like to make one more spectrographic analysis of some of the deposit on one of the cleavages of the large head. This will complete my examination. As soon as this is done, I will forward a written report to you." Yet, at the end of that very same letter, he added the following: 'While abroad this summer, I made it a point of studying various Amarna material, including a fresco of Akhenaten's daughters at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and I found no reason to alter the technical evidence unfortunately indicating they are of fairly modern origin."

Thus it seems that Young definitely had a preconceived opinion. He had declared on October 27, 1947, that the sculptures were not ancient, and, regardless of that "one more spectrographic analysis" he wanted to make on the large head, the sculptures would have to be so in his report.

It is interesting to note that it took over six months- from September 22, 1948 to April 14, 1949 (date of written report)-for Mr. Young "to make one more spectrographic analysis of some of the deposit on one of the cleavages of the large head."

It is also interesting to note that while he was abroad during that summer of 1948, Mr. Young "made it a point of studying various Amarna material, including a fresco of Akhenaten's daughters." The fresco of Akhenaten's daughters is a painting; no scientist would ever compare the surface of an ancient painting with that of any sculptured stone, whether ancient or not. No serious scientist would think of it.

Why did Mr. Young take over eighteen months to issue a report on the Amarna objects and over six "to make one more spectrographic analysis of the deposit on the cleavages" of one head? Why did he tell the Mansoors that he made it a point of studying "Amarna material" and not just ancient Egyptian material? Or ancient limestone material? Did Mr. Young believe that all Amarna material in limestone have the same surface patination regardless of whether they were buried in the ground or exposed in the open? Or whether they were excavated in different areas? And why did Mr. Young mention in particular the painting in Oxford from all Amarna material he studied? Did he want to impress the Mansoors when he told them he went to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and studied the "fresco of Akhenaten's daughters"? Did he study that fresco and the "various Amarna material" from the scientific or artistic point of view? Perhaps he wanted the Mansoors to believe that he became an accomplished geologist, or Egyptologist, or both, after only one summer of study.

All scientists who have commented on the Young report have not praised it in any way; on the contrary, they all criticized it. The reports submitted by the other scientists are unanimous in pointing to the lack of documented conclusions, as well as to the blatant misinformation displayed in the Young report.

One question comes to my mind: In the scientific fields, who knows best? Alfred Lucas or Young? Silver or Young? Iskandar or Young? Stross or Young? And I could go on . . . .

Copyright © 1995 Christine Mansoor

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