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Archaeology & History

Ancient burnt scroll is 'virtually unwrapped'

By T.K. Randall
September 22, 2016 · Comment icon 8 comments

The scroll was badly damaged in a fire. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 LearningLark
Scientists have used cutting-edge techniques to read a charred scroll dating back over 1,500 years.
The ancient text, which was crushed and burned in a fire which ravaged the town of En-Gedi on the western shore of the Dead Sea around 600 AD, is so fragile that it has barely ever been touched.

To find out what is written on the scroll, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Jerusalem took a series of high-resolution x-ray scans and sent them to Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky, who used computer software to reconstruct its original appearance.

The technique, which is known as 'virtual unwrapping', succeeded in revealing that the charred remains actually contained a copy of the book of Leviticus written in Hebrew.
"We know now that the scroll from En-Gedi is biblical," said Seales. "We've identified it as the same text from the book of Leviticus. Anything that is still inside the scroll is now possible to view."

It is hoped that this same method can also be used to reveal other damaged ancient texts.

"Although this approach is bespoke at present, this type of technology will become more and more available in the future, potentially unlocking ancient libraries thought lost forever," said Melissa Terras, Director of the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (8)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Susanc241 6 years ago
Truly amazing. Looking forward to seeing what else can be read in this way re old manus and scrolls.
Comment icon #2 Posted by DieChecker 6 years ago
I was reading about this today. Super cool.
Comment icon #3 Posted by MJNYC 6 years ago
Comment icon #4 Posted by Dark_Grey 6 years ago
This is gnarly
Comment icon #5 Posted by Clair 6 years ago
Imaging technology never ceases to amaze me. Here are a few more details on this story: Washington Post
Comment icon #6 Posted by Calibeliever 6 years ago
To use the vernacular of my youth: "Dude! That's Sick!"
Comment icon #7 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Great work and technology!  I wonder if there's anything earth shattering that the Churches will have an issue with?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Merc14 6 years ago
What a huge breakthrough for archaeology.   As computers and imaging technology get more powerful, smart people like these folks at the University of Kentucky will utilize it in new ways that will blow our minds.  

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