SCIENTIFIC TESTING AT GLOZEL: 1927-2005
The Chemical Analysis of Glass
Glozel glass was first analyzed in the 1920s by Professor Croze, using spectrographic
techniques and classic wet chemistry, and by M. Bruet, Vice President of the
Geological Society of France. It was analyzed again in the 1990s at the Slowpoke
Reactor at Toronto University in Canada by the technique of neutron activation
analysis. The new and old analyses are in general agreement. The most recent
tests identified seven types of glass, three of them high-potassium glass typical
of the French medieval period.
Analyses Made on Glozel Ceramics
I. The Chemical Analysis of Pottery
In 1928 Bruet performed an examination of a Glozel tablet with inscriptions
and of a sample of Glozel clay. He found that the same proportions of the
same minerals were present in both samples, allowing one to conclude
that the tablet
was made from Glozel clay.
Archaeomagnetic studies by Barbetti in 1976 showed that the objects
could not have been made of reconsituted older ceramic ware. Also
in 1976 Zimmerman
the zircon dating technique to two objects and found that there was
no possibililty that they had been artificially irradiated to "age" them.
using differential thermal analysis on fourteen Glozel ceramic artifacts
were performed by Vagn Mejdahl in 1980; they established
that ten of the fourteen
had been fired to at least 500° C.
The recent neutron activation analysis
in Toronto of a phallic idol and five inscribed tablets confirms that the
objects were made from Glozel
pottery samples, however, clearly were made somewhere else.
II. The Dating of Ceramics by Thermoluminescence (TL)
The first extensive TL work, carried out in 1974 by Van Mejdahl,
Hugh McKerrell, Henri François and Guy Portal, was an authenticity
survey of nineteen ceramic artifacts from Glozel. Their joint first
paper, authenticating the
Glozel ceramics, appeared in the journal Antiquity in 1974 (McKerrell et
By 1979 the group had carried out 39 TL datings on 27 artifacts.
The dates fell largely into three groups: an early period from about
300 B.C. to 300
A.D.; a medieval period that clustered around the 13th century; and a recent
period. Fifteen of the artifacts dated to the early period. These consisted
of inscribed tablets, lamps, face urns, vases, and an enigmatic object
that Morlet called a bobine.
Eight pieces dated to the medieval period. The original Celtic TL
dates of some of these objects might have been reset to the Middle
to the heat of the fosse ovale, used as a glassmaking kiln. Exposure
to heat can reset the TL clock to zero.
Three pieces had recent dates: a lump of clay and a brick with cupules
dated to the late 18th century, and a vitrified tablet dated to the
In 1983, as part of the new investigation of Glozel by the Minister
of Culture, tests were performed at the Oxford TL laboratory on five
excavated close to the remains of the fosse ovale. The dates ranged
from the mid fourth century to the medieval period. In 1985 scientists
five ceramics from the museum. Two vitrified tablets were recent
in date; the other three inscribed fragments were medieval.
III. Magnetic Data on Glozel Ceramics
Samples of several tablets were sent to John Shaw at Liverpool University
to have their magnetic history analyzed. He was able to show that two
vitrified tablets as well as a phallic idol, had had an earlier firing,
to above 700°C, followed by a later firing to about 400°C.
Only the former heating could have effected the vitrification. Although
may originally have been made and fired in the Celtic period, vitrification
in a glass kiln would reset the TL clock, erasing any earlier firing.
He also determined that two tablets found in the tombs and dated
to the medieval period also had earlier heatings. In this case
the first heating
been in the Celtic period and the second in the medieval period.
Discussion of the Ceramic Analyses
The TL data and magnetic analyses suggest that there are actually two
occupation periods at Glozel, not three. The artifacts which seem to
be associated with
the earliest period are the inscribed tablets, the face urns, the vases,
the phallic idols, the bobine, and the lamps.
The medieval TL dates seem to be associated with the glassmakers and
are supported by the medieval C-14 dates and by the glass analyses. Hand
cupules, a tile from the floor of the kiln, and some pieces of clay all
belong to this period. The recent period might be an artifact of ceramic
due to the effects of a large field fire at the time the Champ des Morts
was cleared in the 1990s.
Analyses Made on Bone
I: The Chemical Analysis of Bone
In 1928 nine bone objects from Glozel were analyzed by Maheu and
Randoin of the Paris Police Laboratory as part of the Bayle report
Conversion of their results reveals nitrogen levels between 0.3% and
2.5% for these
Although nitrogen decreases with time, there is great variation in
the rate of its loss. Modern bone contains about 4%N but Neolithic
has been shown
to contain between 2.9% and 0.1%N.
About the same time Morlet arranged for chemical analyses on eleven
Glozel bones to be made at four European laboratories, including
those at the
Universities of Porto, Olso, and Lyon. Nitrogen levels for these
objects ranged between
0.1% and 2.2%.
In 1976 Hugh McKerrell determined the amount of nitrogen in fourteen
pieces of bone from Glozel, ten of them undecorated and non-human.
were between 0.2% and 0.7%.
In 1997 Hugh McKerrell and Alice Gerard sampled 62 bones from the
Glozel museum, twelve human bones and the rest worked or decorated
ranged from 0.5% to 4.2%. One of these artifacts, a fish hook,
was chemically analyzed both in 1928 and in 1997. In 1928 it was found
to have 2%N;
in 1997 2.1%, demonstrating a good correspondence between the older
II: Carbon-14 Dating
Sometime in the late 1940s, Morlet learned that a new technique
- Carbon-14 - could for the first time accurately date old bone. Since
bone loses C-14
at a measurable rate once an animal, or human, has died, a measurement
of the remaining C-14 can give an age for the bone. After an
in 1954 to have bones dated in the United States, in 1957 Morlet sent
two human bones to the French radiocarbon laboratory at Saclay for
Both gave recent dates, essentially modern, and the results were never
Table 1 below gives the results all of the C-14 dates, in historical
In 1975 McKerrell sent an ox tooth that had been found in a Glozel
urn to East Kilbride in Scotland for C-14 testing. It dated to AD 30-230,
very close to the TL dates being obtained at the time on Glozel ceramics.
Than same year a sample consisting of fourteen pieces of bone was also
tested at East Kilbride. The date, about 17,000 BC, was never published
because the sample appeared to be contaminated with some kind of wax,
which could not be completely removed. Fluorine levels found in these
bones were exactly the same as in many other Glozel bones recently
dated by C-14 to the medieval period, indicating that the very old
not reliable. The fact that the bones were tested all together as one
sample also invalidates the result.
Three C-14 analyses were made at Oxford in 1984. A piece of charcoal
dated to 1020-1220 A.D. and a fragment of an ivory ring dated to AD
portion of a human femur was dated to AD 340-530. The charcoal had been removed
from an inscribed tablet already TL dated to AD 1350±125; essentially
both dates agree.
In 1995 Alice and Robert Gerard sent two small decorated bone tubes
found in Tomb II in 1927 to the University of Arizona for C-14 testing
Mass Spectrometery (AMS) technique, which can determine a date from very
small amounts of bone. The two dates were medieval: AD 1250-1300.
Two years later, after McKerrell had begun to work again on Glozel,
a new selection of bones to be dated was made. These included a dagger
reindeer and alphabetic letters; a bone decorated with a troop of horses
and alphabetic symbols; another depicting reindeer confronting each other;
of a human cranium recovered from Tomb I in 1927; and large harpoon made
of deer antler with several alphabetic symbols on it. The first three dated
the medieval period, immediately raising suspicion they they were modern
fakes made from old bone.
However, examination of the engraved lines on two of these bones
with the scanning electron microscope revealed that the cracks in the
once the artifact emerges from burial in the moist Glozel soil, cross
the engraved lines on the piece. Therefore the engraving appears to
the bone was fresh, in the 13th century. The cranium, like the earlier
human bones dated at Saclay, dated to AD 1650-1950 and the harpoon to
McKerrell also sent a piece of carbon from a vitrified tablet (984.2.006)
to Arizona for dating. The date obtained, more than 46,000 years BP,
suggests that the carbon was actually coal or coke, neither of which
to 13th century glassmakers. It is possible that the coke came from a
forge used in the 1920s to separate the vitrified tablet from an idol
to it by melted glass. Early pictures show them attached; today they
In 2000 René Germain arranged to have three pieces
of human bone from Glozel dated at the Arizona laboratory. GF745, part
of a the same cranium as
the previously dated GF743, dated to 1850-1955 AD. GF755, a mandible, dated
to AD 1460-1640 and GF737, a fragment of a left femur, dated to AD 1440-1525
This short summary of the Glozel scientific analyses raises many
questions. Some are answered in the complete text titled Scientific
Analyses at Glozel,
which is available on this site as a pdf file. Others can only be answered
by more research.