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Title    Ultra Fragile Scrolls Buried by Vesuvius to be Virtually Unrolled
Date    Sunday October 06 2019, @06:50PM
Author    martyb
from the In-absentia-lucis,-Tenebrae-vincunt dept.

RandomFactor writes:

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.

Original Submission


  1. "RandomFactor" -
  2. "working to 'virtually unroll' several scrolls" -
  3. "Original Submission" -

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