Will we once again read the ancient wisdom contained within the scrolls that were once-thought “destroyed” by the fire and gasses spewed out of the mouth of Mount Vesuvius? The answer seems to be yes, as scientists are on their way to reading them despite their ultra-fragile state.
Mocella, who works at the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems (IMM) in Naples, led a team to probe the scrolls non-invasively using X-ray phase-contrast tomography — a scanner also used in medicine to image soft tissue.
The technique exploits the fact that different materials absorb X-rays differently.
The researchers wrote a purpose-made algorithm to process the signals returned from the beams, seeking to tease out contrasts between the papyrus and the inked letters.
This is really quite fascinating. What kinds of stories are contained in these scrolls? Which books – that escaped the hands of the medieval copiers – influenced the culture of the Roman Empire during the height of its power? Dare we even ask if there are any copies of writings of authors still revered today (and yes, I do mean Aristotle)?
This will be a slow process of re-discovery, but what wondrous (re-)discovery do we have in the near future!