BBC History Revealed

DAMAGED SCROLLS VIRTUALLY UNWRAPPED

Improved X-ray technology unlocks secrets hidden in historic scrolls

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Hidden writing from the past is now readable – thanks to new technology that can penetrate damaged scrolls. Cardiff University researcher­s have spent the last five years polishing their technique, which they say can “virtually unravel” delicate documents.

Using X-ray tomography – used in medical imaging – they can detect ancient ink marks and piece them together into a 3D image, revealing otherwise unreadable text.

Their latest test was on a 16th-century scroll from Diss Heywood Manor in Norwich, which was so badly burnt it was fused together – it simply could not be opened without destroying it. They discovered that it contained details of land transactio­ns, and that it was possible to read individual­s’ names.

Prof Paul Rosin of Cardiff University led the project. “We know that there is a large body of historical documents in museums and archives that are too fragile to be opened or unrolled,” he says. “We would certainly welcome the opportunit­y to try out our new techniques.”

 ??  ?? The scroll was so badly damaged that reading it normally was impossible
The scroll was so badly damaged that reading it normally was impossible

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