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Thursday, January 22, 2015

X-Rays Open Secrets Of Ancient Scrolls

NPR has a piece on new techniques for looking into scrolls that were charred and turned into (essentially) lignite in Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E.

X-Rays Open Secrets of Ancient Scrolls

I remember when I was in graduate school, we were all very hopeful that someday such technology would exist and be viable. New original texts of Ancient Latin and Greek would be amazing.

One of the most amazing things about this technology is that the texts would indeed be untouched by the hands of monks and scribes during the middle ages. Why does that matter? The Latin and Greek texts we have today are copies of copies of copies. And like all copies, errors have been introduced. In addition to errors, semi-literate monks may have made corrections that were based on incorrect assumptions about Latin in the centuries prior to their births.

Why not simply unroll the scrolls? Because they are essentially ash. Since the discovery of the scrolls in Pompeii, experts have ruined countless scrolls trying to unroll them. At some point, they were essentially locked in a vault in the hopes that someday technology would advance. It would appear that such a day has nearly arrived. 



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