Ancient Scrolls Burned By Mt. Vesuvius Deciphered By New X-Ray Technique


Ancient papyrus scrolls charred in the same volcanic eruption that wiped out the city of Pompeii are a step closer to revealing their secrets thanks to a cutting-edge application of X-rays.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD also leveled the nearby town of Herculaneum. At the time, hundreds of papyrus scrolls inside a villa in the town were carbonized rather than incinerated. The outside was charred, but the writing remained on the inside.

While some have been unrolled and examined, the process was abandoned as it often destroyed the scroll itself. Now, a new technique is offering scientists another way to peek inside the past.

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A close-up image of a Herculaneum Papyrus scroll in an image provided by Nature Publishing group.

Researchers used X-ray phase contrast tomography to obtain 3-D scans of the insides of the scrolls, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications. Although the ink written on the papyrus is indistinguishable from the papyrus itself, the scans revealed something else: very small bumps in the surface of the scroll.

The ink, as it turns out, was not absorbed by the papyrus, and the bumps, a tenth of —> Read More Here


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