Witzel, Michael witzel at fas.harvard.edu
Sun Sep 17 22:33:30 UTC 2017

NB: if the ink was made of burnt almond nuts mixed with cow urine, as it was done some centuries before Bühler’s visit (1875), it could be C14-tested like other organic materials. This kind of ink does not dissolve in water (the same is seen  in older Nepalese palm mss.)

One note of caution : Pandits in 1875 no longer knew how to prepare the ink, and we have the testimony of Jonarāja (c. 1420-1450 CE) about a forgery in a document (see W.Slaje*), where the forged document was put in water and the older text re-appeared.

Does this mean that already by c. 1450 the old style ink was no longer used or wasn’t it just in this particular case of clumsy forgery?

Probably the latter as we have birch bark mss. written with this ink from as late as 1675 CE. (The Kashmirian Atharvaveda (at Tübingen was inserted in water before preparing the color facsimile.**)

My 2 cents…
*)  Slaje, W. Medieval Kashmir and the Science of History. South Asia Institute. University of Texas at Austin 2004

**) Bloomfield, Maurice and Richard Garbe (eds.).

The Kashmirian Atharva-Veda (School of the Paippalādas).

Reproduced by Chromatography from the Manuscript in the University Library Tübingen 3 parts. Baltimore 1901.

On Sep 17, 2017, at 6:01 PM, Dominik Wujastyk via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>> wrote:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Agathe Keller <kelleragathe600 at gmail.com<mailto:kelleragathe600 at gmail.com>>
To: Camillo Formigatti <camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk<mailto:camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk>>
Cc: Takao Hayashi <ganaka at kyoto.zaq.ne.jp<mailto:ganaka at kyoto.zaq.ne.jp>>, Indology List <indology at list.indology.info<mailto:indology at list.indology.info>>
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2017 18:11:48 +0200
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Once again on the origin of zero: the date of the Bakhshali manuscript (or manuscripts?)
Dear Camillo,
Thank you for your detailed and pondered reply. Concerning the ink, I thought simply that if there is a difference of ink composition from one folio to another, this could help determine if for instance folio 16 and folio 17 were written at different times.



On 16 Sep 2017, at 17:53, Camillo Formigatti <camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk<mailto:camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk>> wrote:

Dear Agathe,

Thank you for specifying the content aspect of folio 16v and 17r. I have to say however that in cases like this the fact that there is a relationship in content of the text does not always mean that the two folios were produced at the same time. In my modest experience as a cataloguer, it can be quite tricky to establish the correct stratigraphy of composite manuscripts. In fact, if I understand correctly the edition and translation by Hayashi (many thanks, your work is masterpiece of textual scholarship and it saved me during the last months!), the first example for sutra 27 finishes on folio 16v, and on folio 17r a new verification begins, followed by another example. In my modest opinion, this is not so conclusive as it might look at a first glance, as we could always argue that the verification and the second example (which is not marked as such in the manuscript, if I understand correctly the editorial practice, the use of the brackets, and if I read correctly the manuscript) were added in a second moment to verify and explain the sutra further. I'm afraid that we don't have a smoking gun, so to say, to be totally sure that the two folios are contiguous, although it is obviously that it is most probable that they are indeed contiguous. This doesn't necessarily mean however that they were written at the same time, since the upper part of folio 17 is missing and therefore we cannot be sure that the text was continuous between the two folios. All we can know is that on folio 17r there is a verification for the sutra on folio 16v and a second example, but we cannot know for sure whether they were added later or not. Still, I'm not doubting the order of the folios here, only that we cannot be sure that they were written at the same time.

As to the analysis of the ink, I know of the laboratory at the CSMC in Hamburg, as I used to work in the predecessor of the CSMC. I am not sure though how far it could help us to know about the composition of the ink in solving the conundrum of the date. When I was in Cambridge we analysed the inks used in miniatures of a Pancaraksa manuscript, but all we could get to know was the composition of the ink, surely not the date. I'm not totally sure, but if I remember correctly, if the ink was produced also with mineral substances, then the radiocarbon dating wouldn't be totally reliable. All we would know from the analysis of the ink would be whether they used the same type of ink or not on the two folios. Surely this would help us a bit more, but again it wouldn't be totally conclusive.

Finally, I have given a lot of thought before introducing in my report the statement about the function of the Bakhshali manuscript(s). I understand fully and totally agree with you that "many of the general procedures and problems found in the BM have echoes in problems and procedures found in the highbrow scholarly mathematical chapters of later sanskrit siddhāntas. As any historian of mathematics could tell you, apparently “practical” problems are sometimes pretexts for theoretical considerations…" Indeed this is natural (didn't it happen in late medieval Europe as well? I'm thinking of the rising trade and merchant corporations). I'm not saying that merchants wrote the texts in the Bakhshali, what I am saying is that it makes a hell of a lot of sense that precisely this type of practical problems–and not, for instance, an overwhelming number of astrological calculations–are found in this manuscript (or manuscripts?). Also, the style of the texts obviously points to a scholarly context, but we have to bear in mind that the language per se is not Paninian Sanskrit, it is rather a sort of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. I kindly have to ask you however to wait until I finish to write the article, if you don't mind.

Best wishes,


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