The Dogrib Caribou Skin Lodge Project (1999-2000)

For centuries, caribou skin lodges were the most common form of habitation for the Dogrib - aboriginal people from the Northwest Territories of Canada also known as Tlicho. At the beginning of the 20th century, hundreds of these lodges were in everyday use, but when canvas tents became a common trade item in the 1920s the caribou skin lodges quickly disappeared.

In 1998 a project between the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, the Dogrib Community Services Board and the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council joined forces to replicate two caribou skin lodges using traditional means. This project was documented on video and a few video clips are available online.

Making a lodge was a long and difficult task, involving several steps and requiring many caribou hides - caribou is a wild reindeer in North America (Rangifer tarandus sp). Many of the 75 caribou skins needed for the project were collected during the 1999 barrenlands caribou hunt, and seven Dogrib women from the community of Rae, on the North Arm of Great Slave Lake, were appointed to tan the hides and sew and decorate the lodges. Seams were sewn with caribou sinew, and the completed lodges were sealed and decorated with red ochre paint, made from red ochre collected from a site near Rae. Young people were involved throughout the construction process, as traditional skills were passed along to the next generation.

"The Dogrib Caribou Skin Lodge Project" Online Exhibition


"Reliability of x-ray fluorescence for the quantitative analysis of arsenic in contaminated leather" by Bond (2007)

Bond, K.; "Reliability of x-ray fluorescence for the quantitative analysis of arsenic in contaminated leather", The ethnographic conservation newsletter of the Working Group on Ethnographic Materials of the ICOM Committee for Conservation 28 (2007) 9-10

The following is a summary of research undertaken for the Master of Art Conservation program at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, Canada in 2005. The research came about with the increasing concern over the presence of toxic components in pesticides, such as arsenic, that have been used in the past to treat ethnographic materials. The exact chemicals, amount, method of application and frequency used, is not always known. The intimate contact that museum staff and, increasingly, Native groups have with these artifacts, has led to concerns of the health and safety effects of exposure to pesticide residues. An effective method of quantitative analysis is necessary to evaluate the correct amount of arsenic actually present on cultural objects and, through this, the implications of handling contaminated artifacts.

AATA Abstract: 
Investigates the reliability of x-ray fluorescence (XRF) for the quantitative analysis of arsenic on ethnographic leather. Known quantities of three arsenic solutions, prepared according to historical recipes, were applied to buckskin and rawhide. These samples were analyzed with the Innov-X Systems Portable XRF Environmental Metals Analyzer in soil analysis mode, and the results were compared to analysis by the TJA Solutions VG PQ ExCell Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). The results of the XRF analysis were consistently higher than the ICP-MS results, but displayed a strong linear relationship that can reliably be used to calculate approximate quantitative measurements.


"The Vinland Map: a critical review of archaeometric research on its authenticity" by Harbottle (2008)

Harbottle, G.; “The Vinland Map: a critical review of archaeometric research on its authenticity”, Archaeometry 50 (1) (2008) 177–189


The authenticity of the ‘Vinland Map’ (Beinecke Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale University) has been challenged on both codicological and scientific grounds, the latter resulting from a microscopic study of the ink employed. McCrone Associates of Chicago examined, between 1972 and 1974, a total of 29 microparticles, including 16 of ink from the Vinland Map, and in 1974 reported to Yale that it contained a pigment, anatase, only available after 1920. In 1974, Yale announced that the map was ‘probably a modern forgery’. This review critically examines archaeometric research leading to, and testing, this conclusion.

This article has been reviewed by Towe et al in the same Journal:

Towe, K. M.; Clark, R. J. H.; Seaver, K. A.; "Analysing the Vinland Map: a critical review of a critical review", Archaeometry 50 (5) (2008) 887-893
doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.2008.00428.x (restricted access)

In an attempt to validate the Vinland Map as a genuine 15th century work, Garman
Harbottle (2008) claims to review critically, and thereby discredit, the archaeometric research undertaken on the Map's ink by Walter McCrone (1974–1999) and Brown and Clark (2002). In this paper we outline and discuss the numerous arguments that are presented by Harbottle, all of which we find to be misleading or at best highly questionable.

And Harbottle's reply:
Harbottle, G.; "Reply to comments of Towe et al on 'The Vinland Map: a critical review of archaeometric research on its authenticity' ", Archaeometry 50 (5) (2008) 894
doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.2008.00424.x (restricted access)

The Vinland Map

The Vinland Map is a world map on 27.8 x 40 cm parchment folded in two leaves. Housed in Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the map shows Europe (including Scandinavia), Northern Africa, Asia and the Far East. In the northwest Atlantic Ocean, however, it also shows the “Island of Vinland,” which has been taken to represent an unknown part of present-day Labrador, Newfoundland, or Baffin Island. Remarkably, the map describes this region as having been visited in the 11th century.

The Vinland Map purports to be a 15th century world map depicting Viking exploration of North America centuries before Columbus. If genuine, the Vinland map is one of the great documents of Western civilization; if fake, it is an astonishingly clever forgery.

The map in question... Is it authentic?
Explore evidence in chemistry, cartography, pigments/inks, archaeology on the following websites and make your own determination.

Analyzing the Vinland Map: is it a fake?

Examine the entire map and decide for yourself.

Report on the assessment and survey condition and the technique of the Vinland Map by Larsen et al (2005)

Larsen, R., Poulsen, D. V., and Vest, M.; Report on the assessment and survey of the condition and technique of the Vinland Map and the bindings of the Tartar Relation and Speculum historiale, The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation, Copenhagen (2005)

This paper reports on the result of the assessment of the state of condition of the Vinland Map (VM). The damage assessment was based on visual and simple nondestructive methods observing characteristics at the macroscopic and microscopic level mainly relating to the surface of the parchment including the ink. Additional damage assessment was performed on selected parchment sheets bound in the Tartar Relation (TR) and the Speculum Historiale (SH). The bindings of the TR and the SH were subjected to a technical examination of the book structure and a simple nondestructive damage assessment of the leather. The condition of the parchment and ink of the VM, SH and TR as well as the book bindings are reported and recommendations and precautions for their future storage and treatment presented. Moreover, the authenticity of the VM, dating of the rebinding of the SH and TR as wll as the relations between the three objects are discussed on the basis of our observations and our recommendations for future studies are presented.

This report has been published on
Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung:
Larsen, R.; Poulsen, D. V.; Vest, M.; “Assessment and survey of the Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation and Speculum Historiale”, Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung 20 (2) (2006) 249-260


IDAP Project Report by Larsen (2007)

Larsen, René (ed.), Improved damage assessment of parchment, IDAP: assessment, data collection and sharing of knowledge, Research Report n.º18, European Commission, Directorate-General for Research, Brussels (2007)

Table of contents:
  1. Improved Damage Assessment of parchment
  2. The IDAP Website- Data collection and sharing of knowledge
  3. Introduction to damage and damage assessment of parchment
  4. Parchment during the process of manufacture
  5. Typology of the damage of the parchment in manuscripts of the codex form
  6. Characterisation of microbial parchment damage based on the assessment of microbiologically accelerated aged parchment
  7. The parchment damage assessment programme (PDAP)
  8. Visual damage assessment
  9. A model for an early warning system (EWS) based on parchment sensors
  10. Effects of two pollutants (SO2 and NO2) on parchment by analysis at the molecular level using mass spectrometry and other techniques
  11. Accelerated ageing: effect of heat and relative humidity
  12. Damage of parchment fibres on the microscopic level detected by micro hot table (MHT) method
  13. Thermoanalytical (macro to nano-scale) techniques and non-invasive spectroscopic analysis for damage assessment of parchment
  14. Structural and thermal stability of collagen within parchment: a mesoscopic and molecular approach
  15. Damage to parchment collagen measured by structural and biochemical analysis
  16. Structural damage of parchment at the molecular level assessed by raman spectroscopy
  17. Molecular damage of parchment studied by amino acid analysis
  18. Introduction to statistical analysis of IDAP data, using principal component analysis and discriminant analysis
Publication details:
The IDAP project was funded by the European Commission under the fifth framework programme. The main reason for establishing the project is the great need for protection of the large collections of parchment which are recognised as being among the most valuable objects of our cultural heritage. This report is devoted to a presentation of the project background, aims, goals and research strategy. It includes a description of the IDAP website, data collection and sharing of knowledge, the IDAP network for professional users in research and conservation of parchment, and the plans for activities and development in the future. The report also presents an introduction to damage assessment of parchment, parchment during the process of manufacture, typology of damage of the parchment in codex form, characterisation of microbial damage and a basic introduction to the IDAP damage assessment strategy, the damage assessment programme and the results of visual damage assessment as well as a discussion on the principles and problems of diagnosis, damage assessment and experiments specifically for parchment, and a description of a model early warning system. The results of accelerated ageing experiments as tools in the study of deterioration and deteriorative factors are presented. Moreover, the results of the work of the study of damage to parchment at the microscopic to the molecular levels, using various complementary advanced analytical microscopical, chemical, physical and thermochemical techniques, are presented with suggestions for statistical analysis of the data. All the mentioned results and systems developed in the project are available on the Internet, enabling the contributors to the IDAP network to improve communication and dissemination of expertise and knowledge within conservation in the European Community and worldwide.

More about IDAP Project on


"Optical Coherence Tomography for Examination of Parchment Degradation" by Góra et al (2006)

Góra, M.; Pircher, M.; Götzinger, E.; Bajraszewaki, T.; Strlic, M.; Kolar, J.; Hitzenberger, C.; Targowsli, P.; “Optical Coherence Tomography for Examination of Parchment Degradation,” Laser Chemistry, vol. 2006, Article ID 68679, 6 pages (2006) doi:10.1155/2006/68679

A novel application of Optical Coherence Tomography utilizing infrared light of 830 nm central wavelength for non invasive examination of the structure of parchment, some covered with iron gall ink, is presented. It is shown that both the parchment and the ink applied are sufficiently transparent to light of this wavelength. In the study, Spectral OCT (SOCT) as well as Polarisation Sensitive OCT (PS-OCT) techniques were used to obtain cross-sectional images of samples of parchment based on scattering properties. The second technique was additionally employed to recover the birefringence properties and the optical axis orientations of the sample. It was shown that freshly produced parchment exhibits a degree of birefringence. However, this property declines with ageing, and samples of old parchment completely depolarise the incident light.