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New Imaging System 'reads' Ancient Scrolls

Portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Apocalypto system allows historians to read ancient scrolls so fragile they cannot be unrolled.

Credit: Matthew Payton/Discovery Times Square

Researchers at Queen Mary College and Cardiff University have used a combination of x-rays and computer modeling to offer historians a way to read ancient parchments so fragile they cannot be unrolled. The system, called Apocalypto, creates a virtual version of the documents.

The researchers are focusing on documents with metallic-based inks because they can be seen with x-rays. Apocalypto uses a combination of micro tomography and advanced software-based visualization techniques to build a three-dimensional map of the contents of the documents, revealing the hidden or overwritten layers underneath for the first time in centuries.

"The iron content in the ink gives it its good x-ray contrast, but this ink also can cause degradation of the parchment and may contribute to the reasons why a particular scroll cannot be opened," says Queen Mary University researcher Graham Davis.

The process also involves the use of specially designed surface mesh construction and correction algorithms.

"This is a milestone in historical information recovery," says Cardiff's Tim Wess. "Across the world, literally thousands of previously unusable documents up to around 1,000 years old could now become available for historical research."

From InformationWeek
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