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Quest For Buried Knowledge Continues With New Computer Software Tool

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The team examining a Herculaneum scroll in the library of the Institut de France.

A team from the University of Kentucky is using a new computer software tool to read ancient scrolls without having to unroll or open them.

Credit: University of Kentucky News

A new computer software tool will enable scholars to read the writings of ancient scrolls without having to unroll or open them.

The Volume Cartographer was developed by University of Kentucky professor Brent Seales and colleagues. The tool is designed to map the surface of a scroll, enabling the user to see layers of pages. Each scroll page becomes an uneven three-dimensional page that can be pulled out. The user can texture a page to flatten it into a two-dimensional equivalent and then can scan for letters to see if words are on the page.

"It's really about what we can enable scholars to do," says project manager Seth Parker. "We want to create a pipeline that we can actually give to historians, classicists, the people who want to study these texts, and enable them to unlock their own artifacts."

The tool currently is being used to reveal text from a Herculaneum scroll carbonized by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

"We are now poised for discovery--discovery not just of new technical methods and software development--but of texts that we might somehow rescue," Seales says.

From University of Kentucky News
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