Storyline – Archaeology Gets Technical

Archaeology is not all Indiana Jones and a bullwhip. Modern technology has a place alongside maps and exploring in the jungle. Metal detectors have uncovered the secrets of battlefields yielding artifacts and insights into troop movements. Now x-rays are helping unlock the secrets of a scroll from what is called the Villa of the Papyri. The scroll is among hundreds retrieved from the remains of a lavish villa at Herculaneum, which along with Pompeii was one of several Roman towns that were destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

Some of the texts have been deciphered since they were discovered in the 1750s. But many more remain a mystery to science because they were so badly damaged that unrolling the papyrus they were written on would have destroyed them completely. Enter technology and phase contrast tomography. The process had previously been used to examine fossils without damaging them.

Phase contrast tomography takes advantage of subtle differences in the way radiation — such as X-rays — passes through different substances, in this case papyrus and ink. Using lab time at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France, the researchers found they were able to decipher several letters, proving that the method could be used to read what’s hidden inside the scrolls.

More of the story at x-rays-unlock-secrets-ancient-scrolls-buried-volcano-160136061.html.

Just because the present works with the future, doesn’t mean we have to eliminate the past or the human. For myself, I’ll take technology and Indiana Jones.

Till next time.  ~Helen