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Using Raman spectroscopy to identify ivory of unknown origin

Project: Research


Although the sale of elephant ivory is banned in most countries, the sale of mammoth and some other ivories is still allowed. Although it is possible to tell the difference between elephant and mammoth ivory in its natural state, once samples have become worked or carved this becomes much harder (2). Current methods recommended by The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for assessing the legality of ivory predominantly focus on DNA and mtDNA analysis and isotope analysis. These are destructive and time-consuming methods to determine species and sample age, and owners are reluctant to perform these techniques on potentially legal objects of high monetary or cultural value. Raman spectroscopy is a non-destructive, laser-based method which can achieve this purpose and the equipment is already in place at many customs facilities worldwide. Our research to date has demonstrated that it is possible to use Raman spectroscopy and subsequent statistical analysis to distinguish between ivory of different species. This project will build on this prior research by developing a database of reference spectra and creating software that can be used with pre-existing Raman spectrometers to quickly, inexpensively and non-destructively identify and age ivory samples from unknown sources.
Short titleIvory Identification Project
Effective start/end date2/01/2331/03/25

Research outputs