Manuscripts are the most important medium writing has ever had. For thousands of years, manuscripts have had a determining influence on all cultures that were shaped by them, their only serious rival arising in the early modern period, with the introduction of printing.

Our mission is to build a bridge over the ever-growing gap between the humanities and the natural sciences and technology.

In this course we are aiming to elucidate the chemical profiles and the morphological and anatomical features of the underlying materials by instrument based analysis. With this approach  we are intending to shed light on the chemical and biological identity, provenance and history of a written artefact by identifying its original and its acquired properties.

We are absolutely convinced that material analysis can assist scholars in their work on codicology, paleography, textual criticism and text editing, cataloguing, and the conservation and preservation of manuscripts.

Artefact Profiling is part (Research Area A) of the Cluster of Excellence Understanding Written Artefacts: Material, Interaction and Transmission in Manuscript Cultures.


Artefact Profiling is a joint scientific project consisting of scientists from UHH, TUHH and DESY where each participating academic research center is a competence pool for at least one technology and has extensive and long-term experience in the respective area. All reasonable technologies and competences available today for the area of ​​”material authentication” are covered by the consortium.

CSMC: A functional Mobile Lab for exhaustive high-resolution characterisation of writing materials is part of our infrastructure. The lab contains imaging techniques (MSI, reflectography, microscopy) as well as analytical methods for determining elemental (XRF) and chemical (FTIR, Raman, VIS) composition. Analysis is used either for fully non-invasive characterisation or for a survey to be followed by invasive sampling.

HSFS: The HSFS mainly works on the development of analytical methods for ‘in-field’ analysis, for routine applications, as well as technically sophisticated fingerprinting approaches. HSFS carries out analyses of underlying genetic information by Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), the analysis of small molecule profiles, and the collection of element and isotope patterns by HR-ICP-MS linked to laser ablation. By means of ultra-high-resolution technologies (for example NGS methods, HR-LC-MS, HR-ICP-MS), hypothesis-free system-wide statements about the identity and about interactions with the environment are made possible.

Institute of Wood Science: Fully equipped light- and electron microscopy (SEM, TEM, EDXA) labs as well as an electrophysiological lab and a greenhouse are part of the infrastructure of the wood biology section in Hamburg-Bergedorf. In addition, herbarium material – with 1.4 million documents collected in Germany and 78 other countries (mainly in Europe, South America and Africa) – is available for determining plant species at the Herbarium Hamburgense of the Biozentrum Klein Flottbek.

DESY: With PETRA III, DESY operates one of the most brilliant synchrotron radiation sources worldwide. It provides a wide range of X-ray analytical techniques for chemical and structural analysis. The high brightness of the source allows one to image the chemical and physical properties of objects in two and three dimensions, with spatial resolutions down to a few ten nanometres. In addition, DESY develops mobile X-ray analytical devices, such as a micro-CT system for objects up to 100 mm in size.

Institute for Mineralogical and Petrography: The IMP provides a high-performance triple-monochromator Raman spectroscopic system equipped with a microscope and macro-chamber that can operate with visible and UV lasers; a high-performance FTIR spectrometer equipped with an IR microscope with appropriate objectives for surface-sensitive ATR-IR and RAIR experiments; in-house single-crystal and powder X-ray diffractometers.

Institute of Advanced Ceramics (TUHH): Fully equipped with mechanical testing machines (elastic modulus, (nano-) hardness, strength, fracture toughness) from the macro- to the nanoscale (universal testing machines, nanoindenter, AFM) and X-ray diffraction equipment for crystallographic analysis. TUHH has a central electron microscopy unit (SEM, TEM, FIB, EDX, WDX, EBSD). Polishing and grinding machines for sample preparation are also available.

Open Positions

Beside the published vacancies we offer permanently master and diploma positions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Prof. Dr. Markus Fischer
Spokesperson „Research Area A in the Cluster of Excellence „Understanding Written Artefacts: Material, Interaction and Transmission in Manuscript Cultures“

Faculty of Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences
Grindelallee 117
20146 Hamburg

fon +49 40 428 38 – 43 57 (Office)
fax +49 40 428 38 – 43 42