Published in

Elsevier, Journal of Archaeological Science, 4(40), p. 1700-1702, 2013

DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2012.11.022



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Nuclear science and the story of a preserved leaf from a copy of the great bible

This paper is available in a repository.
This paper is available in a repository.

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Three pressed leaves of Ulmus glabra (Wych Elm) were found within the pages of a copy of the Great Bible in the Library of the University of Western Australia. The Bible dates from AD 1540 and was originally housed at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire. A radiocarbon age on one of the leaves found it was about as old as the Great Bible itself, and stable C and N isotope and neutron activation analyses were carried out on the same leaf. The δ15N values were elevated and the content of iron, arsenic, bromine, silver, gold and mercury were relatively high. These analyses are consistent with an environment where water logging is present, as at Ely at the time, and the silver and gold content are probably consistent with the cathedral setting. The mercury was found to be associated with the red ink in the Bible. It is intriguing to ponder why Wych elm leaves were placed in the Bible, especially in the light that a copy of an original edition of the King James version of the Bible from Ely, also in the library in Perth has many dozens of U. glabra leaves also preserved within in its pages.© 2012, Elsevier Ltd.