X-ray Unravels Hidden Text Inside A Burnt Scroll

Posted: Oct 5 2018, 12:49pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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X-ray Unravels Hidden Text Inside a Burnt Scroll
Credit: Cardiff University

The new technique can make it possible to read extremely delicate rolled-up historical documents.

Scientists have succeeded in reading a damaged and unreadable ancient scroll that was severely burnt during 16th century. The text has been deciphered with the help of advanced X-ray technology. The technique could help researchers read fragile historical documents and gain new insight into the past.

The particular scroll was retrieved from Diss Heywood Manor in English city of Norwich. There were high chances that the scroll will crack and crumble if any attempt is made to physically unroll or unfold it. Therefore, researchers used a new X-ray technology to read hidden details in the scroll and made it possible to 'virtually unravel' extremely delicate documents without further damage.

“The scroll from Diss Heyword was an extremely challenging sample to work with, not least because it contained four sheets of parchment and many touching layers, which can result in text being assigned to the wrong sheets,” said Principal investigator on the project Professor Paul Rosin from Cardiff University.

“In addition to this, the scroll was heavily discolored and creased and was covered in soot-like deposits over the entire exterior. Nevertheless, we've shown that even with the most challenging of samples, we can successfully draw information from it,”

Developed at Cardiff University, the technique first revealed the hidden text of a scroll from Bressingham Manor over five years ago. The original technique involves X-ray tomography and creates thousands of thin cross sections in a scroll. In each cross-section, ink from the scroll is made visible as bright blobs. Then, highly advanced computer algorithms enable researchers to piece together each of the cross sections and the exact locations of ink marks, creating a readable text.

Since that time, researchers at Cardiff University have been refining their technique. The new improved technique can not only handle very large data sets but also deals with more complex shapes and sizes.

“We know that there is a large body of historical documents in museums and archives that are too fragile to be opened or unrolled, so we would certainly welcome the opportunity to try out our new techniques,” said Professor Rosin. “Similarly, the method we've developed is heavily automated, opening up the possibility of exploring a larger range of documents and even other types of media, such as old and damaged camera films.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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