Mansoor Amarna Collection

Scientific Reports

The Amarna Collection has been subjected to analysis by 20 separate scientists. All but one have concluded that the collection is genuine. Only William J. Young of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), has concluded that the pieces are not genuine. Unfortunately, due to the stature of the Boston Museum, and the tribal attitude of some museum directors and scholars, Mr. Young's report has been accepted by many in the Egyptological community as conclusive, despite the overwhelming scientific and Egyptolgical evidence refuting his conclusions.

Even the non-scientist will appreciate that Mr. Young was so utterly unqualified in matters of geology and petrography that he was completely unable even to identify the pieces as natural stone--an elemental point that is now completely uncontroverted. The scientist, after reading Mr. Young's report, will understand that he, in fact, applied no scientific analysis at all to the pieces: his report is simply a terse recitation of invalid conclusions entirely unsupported by rational science.

What follows is a selection of comments upon the Young report, and the Amarna Collection, by a varied and distinguished group of true scientists. The full text of all of these reports is available on-line.

Comments of Scientists regarding the Young Report

Robert R. Compton, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, Emeritus, Stanford University
"Finally, with regard to the two reports already made on the Mansoor collection, that one dated 28-11-1950 (Iskandar/Mustafa) seems to me to be well founded petrologically. It covers many items that only someone with a knowledge of Egyptology could present, and I note that this report concludes that the pieces are authentic. The report dated April 14,1949 (Young),is based mainly on petrologic and mineralogic point, and I feel that most of these are weak, to say the least. As far as I can see, the fluorescence 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 of the pieces, yet somehow concludes that the pieces are "of fairly modern origin". Perhaps his error has been in comparing these pieces with ancient pieces that we re-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 (emphasis supplied).

"My 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."

Signed: Robert R. Compton,
Stanford University, December 18,1958

Eliot Blackwelder, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, Emeritus, Stanford University; Member, National Academy of Sciences
"I do not find the report of Mr. Young convincing. For many of his assertions he has supplied no satisfactory evidence.

"On the whole, I am inclined to agree with the opinions of Mr. Compton and Mr. Lucas that these sculptures are probably of ancient Egyptian origin.

Signed: Eliot Blackwelder,
Professor of Geology, Emeritus, Stanford University

Robert E. Arnal, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, San Jose State University
"Evaluation of previous reports: 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. Ultra-violet light might be a good mean to determine the authenticity of ancient sculptures, if care is taken to recognize the limitations of the method. Obviously the method used by Mr. Young refers to that developed by Mr. James J. Rorimer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (use of a Corex A filter under U.V. rays). The method is explained in some detail in the February 1934 issue of "Industrial and Engineering Chemistry" page 235. Two important remarks may be made from reading the article: 1.) that it is used mostly to evaluate the age of marble sculptures, and 2.) that it has been successfully applied to the study of Grecian and Roman Marbles. Both of these remarks need additional comments. Regarding the use of this method to check marbles, it must be pointed out that marbles are calcium carbonate rocks in which the calcium carbonate is well crystallized in large crystals. This is one of the reasons why the method is working for this type of rocks because as mentioned in the above article page 235 "after years of exposure the individual crystals are not as firmly held together in the surface of the marble as they are 0.25 inch below the surface." The fact that the crystals are not firmly held together is what permits to recognize the characteristic disintegration; in the instance of the Tel-el-Amarna rock we are in the presence of a limestone not a marble. The limestone of Tel-el Amarna is an organic limestone made of an agglomeration of fine size particles ( a few thousandth of a millimeter ) of calcium carbonate and other non carbonate material associated with a great percentage of Foraminifera of which the shells also are made of calcium carbonate. In other words, the limestone of Tel-el-Amarna does not contain any crystals of calcium carbonate large enough and abundant enough to permit a good evaluation of its weathered characteristics by the U.V. method. Regarding comment number 2 the method has been applied successfully to Grecian and Roman marbles. The method has been applied to rocks which have been exposed to weathering action in temperate climate ( Greece, Rome ) where the amount of rainfall is such that chemical and physical reaction will take place on the surface of a rock exposed to the weathering elements. In desertic regions such as Egypt the rainfall is so small that it would take fifty to 100,000 years to achieve the same chemical weathering effect which is produced in temperate climate in a period of a few hundred years. Therefore if a piece of rock is exposed to chemical weathering in Egypt for a period of 4000 to 5000 years, it will be much less chemically weathered than the same piece of rock exposed to chemical weathering in Greece for the same period time. This being established, it can be understood why the ultra-violet method would not detect any weathering since the method observes changes produced by chemical weathering. These are practically inexistant or at least very small in desertic climate over a period of 4 or 5000 years.

"Furthermore H. J. Plenderleith of the British Museum writes along the same line when he warns users of the ultra-violet method to be very cautious in its use and states: "It is often possible by examining a piece of marble sculpture to determine whether it is recent or ancient and to reveal any modern cutting on an old marble, but as there can be no absolute guide as to the time required for a marble to acquire a patina recognizable as ancient, it is impossible to date marbles by the quality of their fluorescence." Obviously, Mr. Plenderleith, the keeper of the Research Laboratory of the British Museum, does not consider the fluorescence method very reliable, even when applied to marbles.

"Regarding the artistic value of the sculptures, I am not qualified to express an opinion, however, that of Mr. E. Drioton, one of the foremost expert in matters of Egyptology is positive enough to clear any doubt about the authenticity of the sculptures.

"Conclusions: I will summarize my conclusions by saying that:

  1. The sculptures are made entirely of natural rock which contains no artificial filling.
  2. The weathered surface is a natural one and was produced over a long period of time.
  3. The fluorescence 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.
  5. It can be stated that these sculptures are authentic and of ancient origin."

Signed: Robert E. Arnal,
March 7,1959,
San Jose State College, San Jose, California.

Paul L. Kirk, Ph.D., Professor of Microchemistry, University of California at Berkeley.
"Previous reports that were read included those of W. J. Young, Eliot Blackwelder, Etienne Drioton, Robert Compton, Zaki Iskandar and Zahira Mustafa, which included that of A. Lucas, and Robert Arnal.

"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 ultra-violet light cannot be given unqualified acceptance by anyone experienced in the 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.

"Summary: 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 tell-tale 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."

Submitted this 16th day of March, 1959.
Signed: Paul L. Kirk

Leon T. Silver, Ph.D., Geochemistry Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, Member, National Academy of Sciences

  1. All of the material in the sculptured pieces is natural stone. There are small quantities of surface deposits which appear secondary and perhaps artificial, but these are not related in any apparent way to an attempt to falsify the surface. There is no evidence of a false paste medium applied to the specimens as has been implied by at least one previous examiner.
  2. Ultra-violet fluorescence examinations provide no unique tests of authenticity for these samples. Their response in completely compatible with that of naturally weathered limestone, modified very slightly by some secondary contamination by handlers at undetermined times. The basic theory of ultra-violet fluorescence in carbonates is not sufficiently well-established to accept generalizations for all limestones and marbles.
  3. The manganese grains which are clearly within the stone do locally develop surficial dendritic efflorescences which expand on the surface and are younger than the sculptured surface. This is suggestive of considerable age and exposure to migrating waters.
  4. The surface patina while thin is widespread in area and distinctly pervasive with a transition zone extending well into the limestone.
  5. Sampling and analysis of two phases of the limestone, each represented internally and surficially in # 144, indicates the surface patina is enriched perceptibly in manganese oxide, barium and copper despite the fact that the sampling method tends to minimize the apparent differences. The enrichments are characteristic of enrichments observed in the development of desert varnish on desert rocks as reported in the most comprehensive and modern study of desert varnish chemistry to date. Although the presence of manganese oxide in desert varnish has long been known, the enrichments in the trace elements barium and copper were first reported in 1958, long after the first appearance of the Mansoor collection. Their presence in a false patina would indeed be highly fortuitous.
  6. Neither the chemical analyses nor in the solids extracted near the surface was there any evidence of materials incompatible with a primitively worked surface of ancient age.
  7. The delicate etching of the surface and the distribution of the patina, in my opinion based on experience with etching of rock surface, is best explained by a natural origin.
  8. The sum of evidence from this limited examination suggests that these are genuine antiquities. Several methods which have been applied would provide a more definitive test if extended to increased sampling. This was not possible with the time or materials at hand. Potentially the trace element methods described, if properly handled, may be more informative than any other chemical tests applied to date."

Signed: Leon T. Silver
Mail address:

Professor Leon T. Silver Geochemistry Laboratory Division of Geological Sciences California Institute of Technology Pasadena 4, California.

Jack DeMent, Ph.D., DeMent Laboratories, Research, Consulting, Testing, Portland ,OR
"IN RE THE YOUNG REPORT: A number of previous investigators have remarked about the Young Report, wherein by means of ultra-violet examination the sculptures he examined were concluded to be "of fairly modern origin."

"It is interesting and perhaps significant to note that of the ten reports submitted, that of W.J. Young was the only one which was not favorable. So it is the aim of this section to deal with the Young report as thoroughly as possible, and point up the many weaknesses of that report.

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

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

"SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS:In view of (a) what is felt to be a thorough study and collation of the gist of ten reports and letter- reports relating to the Mansoor Collection of Egyptian Sculpturings, and (b) the results obtained by the present investigator, the following conclusions are drawn by this writer about the three Mansoor objects identified in Section I hereof:

  1. The report of W. J. Young of the Boston Museum, including a purported fluorescence analysis, lacks factual and objective bases, for the reasons given in Section III (discussing the Young Report), and should be eliminated in any serious appraisal of a body of evidence regarding the authenticity, or lack of same, of the Mansoor objects.
  2. Fluorescence analysis made in this laboratory of the three Mansoor objects confirms the statement made under (1) supra.
  3. Fluorescence analysis made in this laboratory of the three Mansoor objects shows that these objects have had a history of chemomechanical and/or biochemomechanical alteration consistent with authenticity and substantial age.
  4. Visible, ultraviolet, and infrared photographic investigations made in this laboratory on the three Mansoor objects show features consistent with authenticity and substantial age.
  5. Spectrochemical analyses as well as microscopic studies, together with a close scrutiny of known facts regarding the nature of patina, are all consistent with authenticity and substantial age.
  6. It is therefore the considered opinion of the present writer that the three Mansoor sculpturings he has examined are genuine and correctly represented as defined by the limits of the investigational techniques (a) employed and reported upon herein and (b) employed and reported upon in the previous reports substantiating authenticity."

Dated: June 17, 1959
Signed: Jack DeMent

C. Osborne Hutton, Ph.D., Professor of Mineralogy, Stanford University
"All of the reports, except that due to Mr. W.J. Young, present evidence along many lines that lead only to 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 ultra-violet light, under the conditions imposed by him, they are, necessarily, of recent manufacture. I believe that the data and statements set out by DeMent Laboratories and by Mr. R.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 the absence of antiquity. Mr. Compton and Mr. Silver in particular, point out that there has been growth or creep of 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.

"After careful consideration of the data set out in all of 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."

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

Francis J. Turner, Ph.D., Professor of Geology, University of California, Berkeley; Member, National Academy of Sciences.
"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.

"The report of W. J. Young (4-14-49) 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 233 and 124). The report and appended "remarks and conclusions" cannot be taken seriously as a solution to your problem.

"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.

"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."

Yours sincerely,
Signed: Francis J. Turner,Professor of Geology

Harold J. Plenderleith, Ph.D., Director, International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and the Restoration of Cultural Property, UNESCO, Rome
"In my considered opinion it would be as serious a mistake to underestimate the importance of scientific investigation as to consider that a lack of unanimity in the conclusions warrants a decision against the genuineness of the Egyptian antiqities for, as I have analysed the evidence before me, the inescapable conclusion is that there is over-riding agreement as to their genuineness.

"It is because of this conviction that I am taking the exceptional step of making this gratuitous statement in the hope that after 20 years of doubt it may be a factor in restoring confidence.

Signed: Harold J. Plenderleith, Director

Dr. Pierre Bariand, Conservateur de la Collection de Mineraux de l'Universite' Pierre & Marie Curie (Sorbonne)
"Examination of the surface of these objects shows a very ancient patina leading to the conclusion that these objects are authentic. Moreover, the granulated appearance of the patina compared to fossil debris make a modern imitation very unlikely."

Signed: P. Bariand
June 25,1980

  1. Additional credentials of Drs. Arnal, Compton, DeMent and Silver, are found in American Men and Women of Science, 1989-1990, 17th Edition ,as follows: Arnal, Vol.I pg.176; Compton, Vol II, Pg.340; DeMent, Vol II, Pg. 618; Silver, Vol.VI, Pg. 760.
  2. Additional credentials of Dr. Eliot Blackwelder, are found in Who Was Who in America Vol.VI 1974-1976, Pg. 37.
  3. Additional credentials of Dr. Paul L. Kirk, are found in The National Cyclopedia of American Biographies, Vol.56 (1975) Pg. 400.
  4. Additional credentials of Dr. C. Osborne Hutton, are found in Who Was Who in America, Vol. V 1969-1973, Pg. 361.
  5. Additional credentials of Dr. Harold J. Plenderleith, are found in Who's Who, 1995.
  6. Additional credentials of Dr. Francis J. Turner, are found in American Men of Science, 1955, Vol I, Pg. 1974 and a Memorial to Francis John Turner, The Geological Society of America.
  7. We have been unable to verify the credentials of William J. Young. Upon our inquiry, The Boston Museum of Fine Arts could not verify that he is a credentialed Egyptologist nor that he is otherwise qualified in any way to evaluate the authenticity of ancient objects of art. Our own research has uncovered no scholarly publications by Mr. Young on the subject of Ancient Egypt or Egyptian artwork. However, see Professor Turner's report for a sceptical account of Mr. Young's claimed ability to authenticate ancient marble.

26 November 1996