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posted by martyb on Sunday October 06 2019, @06:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the In-absentia-lucis,-Tenebrae-vincunt dept.

Researchers in Oxfordshire are working to 'virtually unroll' several scrolls from the library of Herculaneum.

The scrolls were buried by Mt. Vesuvius which erupted in 79AD and are far to fragile to unroll physically (it has been tried with a few scrolls from this library with "largely disastrous results")

Unlike other ancient scrolls, these have resisted previous efforts to scan and read them due to their use of carbon based ink.

Unlike metal-based inks, such as the iron gall used to write medieval documents, carbon ink has a density similar to that of the carbonized papyrus on which it sits. Therefore, it appears invisible in X-ray scans.

The scrolls will be scanned at the U.K.'s Diamond Light Source synchrotron science facility at photon energies of 53-150keV.

The researchers believe that the tomography will "capture subtle, non-density-based evidence of ink, even when it is invisible to the naked eye in the scan data."

The machine-learning tool we are developing will amplify that ink signal by training a computer algorithm to recognize it pixel-by-pixel from photographs of opened fragments that show exactly where the ink is, voxel-by-voxel, in the corresponding tomographic data of the fragments. The tool can then be deployed on data from the still-rolled scrolls, identify the hidden ink, and make it more prominently visible to any reader.

The opened fragments that will be used to train the tool are the remains from scrolls sacrificed in earlier physical attempts at unrolling.


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  • (Score: 1) by Mojibake Tengu on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:05PM (6 children)

    by Mojibake Tengu (8598) on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:05PM (#903465) Journal

    Trying to read some randomly found Elder Scroll, what could possibly go wrong...

    Well, let's get serious. My question is, why using X-rays instead of, say, magnetic resonance?

    --
    Respect Authorities. Know your social status. Woke responsibly.
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:40PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:40PM (#903472)

    Lets just hope that whatever Diamond Light Source synchrotron photons are... isn't like putting aluminum foil in the microwave.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by RandomFactor on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:45PM

    by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 06 2019, @07:45PM (#903473) Journal

    It's been tried in the past [seattletimes.com] (apologies for the nasty site) with some of these scrolls and MRI hasn't been successful.

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    В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
  • (Score: 2) by nishi.b on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:16PM (1 child)

    by nishi.b (4243) on Sunday October 06 2019, @08:16PM (#903478)

    This might also be due to the required resolution, both spatial (mm resolution is not enough) and to differentiate the signal from paper with and without ink.
    But this project is an improvement on a 2015 project that already yielded results from metal in the ink [www.esrf.eu]

    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Monday October 07 2019, @01:23AM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Monday October 07 2019, @01:23AM (#903536)

      it is wavelength - electrons are tiny and a bonus is they x-ray scatter, allowing a passive (well depending on the eV of the beam...!) atomic scan(that's the official name).

      Reading atoms one at a time, is probably one of the coolest things a human could ever do...

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by looorg on Sunday October 06 2019, @10:28PM

    by looorg (578) on Sunday October 06 2019, @10:28PM (#903507)

    Trying to read some randomly found Elder Scroll, what could possibly go wrong...

    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn ...

  • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Monday October 07 2019, @03:19AM

    by RS3 (6367) on Monday October 07 2019, @03:19AM (#903569)

    Great answers already; also, possibly MRI could heat up the ink and maybe even burn the papyrus if there's metal in it?