Age test on written text

Analysing the age of written text is one of the most difficult and not yet fully solved forensic problems. It includes:

  • Examination of a document’s absolute age, i.e. the date that the records were created.
  • Examination of the relative age of the document, i.e. Indication of whether all records occurring on one or more documents originate from the same time and the chronological order of the records. (Chronology of records).


The main task of the absolute age examination of the document is to determine the time of its preparation from the moment of the test.
The approximate length of time a document takes to create is determined by:

  • The characteristics of the substrate (type and composition of the paper, type of security methods used, imprints, signs of aging and damage to the document) related to reliable dated events.
  • Features of printing and handwriting (type of applied printing techniques, paints and their protections, physicochemical properties of handwritten notes/Agiński method, etc.).
  • Graphic handwriting features, analyzed on the basis of its evolutionary changes related to the writer’s age.

In forensic practice, the most commonly used method is determining the absolute age of a scripture based on the measurement of the hard-to-handle solvent disappearance (2-phenoxyethanol) commonly found as a component of ballpoint ink. This method is based on the work of V. Agiński from 1996. It was positively verified by experts from the Polish National Police Headquarters, based in the central criminal laboratory. The result of their work was published in “Problems of Criminology” in 2002.
(R. Łuczak, W.S.Krawczyk, Methodology of Document Age Studies, “Problems of Criminology”, p. 18-26).
In this publication, the applications of the Agiński method were positively assessed. Such research is performed in Poland in a few laboratory facilities (Polish Forensic Association, Central Criminal Laboratory of KGP – Polish National Police, Department of Chemistry and Department of Criminology of Wroclaw University).

The method for determining the supposed sketching period of analysed records (mostly signatures), based on the analysis of their graphical features is based on the premise that the writing, apart from durable features with significant levels of graphical stability, also includes features that have undergone specific modifications over the years. Such analyses, however, require extensive research material prepared under various conditions that would exclude other factors as a source of possible graphic fluctuations (psychophysical state of the writer, conditions of drafting of the analysed records, type of used writing tools, substrates, etc.). The results of such analyses are mostly subjected to high levels of hypotheticality and generally do not give basics for categorical determinations.

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