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Archaeology & History

Metallic ink found in Herculaneum scrolls

By T.K. Randall
March 25, 2016 · Comment icon 12 comments

Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was buried in volcanic ash. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Greg Willis
Scrolls from the time of the volcanic disaster that buried Pompeii have been examined by scientists.
The ancient scrolls, which were buried in ash and dust when Mount Vesuvius erupted to devastating effect back in AD79, have been described by scientists as an 'archaeological wonder'.

Many of the 1,800 individual papyri, which were discovered in Herculaneum during the 18th century, had either been badly damaged or destroyed completely due to failed attempts to read them.

Now however scientists utilising modern technologies such as the European synchrotron - a machine that produces x-rays billions of times more powerful than those used in hospitals - have finally started piecing together some of the text contained inside the remaining scrolls.
Particularly surprising was the discovery that the ink used on the scrolls contained quantities of lead and metal - a find that has pushed back the first known use of metallic inks by several centuries.

The discovery will also help the scientists to analyze the scrolls because it means that they can better calibrate their equipment to pick up this particular type of ink on the parchment.

"Until now, I hadn't expected to be able to read any of these scrolls from the inside, without damage to them, in my own lifetime," said Professor Dirk Obbink. "But now I do."

Source: BBC News | Comments (12)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #3 Posted by Infernal Gnu 8 years ago
Wouldn't it be funny if a line of text read: "Dump Trump, choose Cruz."
Comment icon #4 Posted by Trust_no_one 8 years ago
Going to see these places this year so excited history frozen in time x
Comment icon #5 Posted by shadowsot 8 years ago
Hopefully! Probably not, an example in one part of the world can't be generalized to all parts.
Comment icon #6 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago
Now I'm curious ... why is it when the spread is the other way around it is not generalized ? ~
Comment icon #7 Posted by shadowsot 8 years ago
Some societies get things earlier than others, others get them later. And the technology can die out before being rediscovered again later. It being found in one area earlier than others doesn't translate to all areas having it at the same time. Different cultures reached their bronze or iron ages at different points hundred of years apart.
Comment icon #8 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago
But that still doesn't remedy the previous circumstances where some ancient texts were written off as frauds strictly based on the characteristics of the ink ... at the very least this should warrant another look on some of those cases. ~
Comment icon #9 Posted by shadowsot 8 years ago
But that still doesn't remedy the previous circumstances where some ancient texts were written off as frauds strictly based on the characteristics of the ink ... at the very least this should warrant another look on some of those cases. ~ Those other cases would have been subjected to the same process these scrolls were set to. Part of the problem with those documents labeled false is they have no context, whereas these clearly do. If you have documents with the wrong kind of ink with no context to place them in, it is probably false. And say, a medieval document won't be supported by a findin... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago
Those other cases would have been subjected to the same process these scrolls were set to. Part of the problem with those documents labeled false is they have no context, whereas these clearly do. If you have documents with the wrong kind of ink with no context to place them in, it is probably false. And say, a medieval document won't be supported by a finding from Classical Greece. I get that ... especially in terms where context is involved ... in fact if the context does not fit it hardly warrants the procedures that involving verifying the chemical compounds of the ink ~ what I am referrin... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by shadowsot 8 years ago
Right, but then you have an anomalous object that has characteristics that don't fit the time period it's supposed to be from.
Comment icon #12 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago
... but it might possibly allow for greater understanding if not an increased expansive view for further appreciation of the issue depending on the character of the texts itself ~


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