Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reading the unreadable: 'Unopenable' scrolls will yield their secrets to new X-ray system

Date:
May 16, 2013
Source:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Summary:
Pioneering X-ray technology is making it possible to read fragile rolled-up historical documents for the first time in centuries. Old parchment is often extremely dry and liable to crack and crumble if any attempt is made to physically unroll or unfold it. The new technology, however, eliminates the need to do so by enabling parchment to be unrolled or unfolded 'virtually' and the contents displayed on a computer screen.

Technique works by scanning parchment with x-rays.
Credit: Image courtesy of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Pioneering X-ray technology is making it possible to read fragile rolled-up historical documents for the first time in centuries.

Related Articles


Old parchment is often extremely dry and liable to crack and crumble if any attempt is made to physically unroll or unfold it. The new technology, however, eliminates the need to do so by enabling parchment to be unrolled or unfolded 'virtually' and the contents displayed on a computer screen.

Developed at Cardiff University and Queen Mary, University of London with funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the breakthrough means historians will be able to access previously unusable written sources and gain new insight into the past.

No other technique developed anywhere in the world has the capability to make text concealed in rolled or folded historical parchments genuinely legible. The system has now been tested successfully on a 19th century scroll provided by the Norfolk Record Office.

In a completely innovative approach to the problem, the technique works by scanning parchment with X-rays in order to detect the presence of iron contained in 'iron gall ink' -- the most commonly used ink in Europe between the 12th and 19th centuries.

Using a method called microtomography, a 3-dimensional 'map' showing the ink's exact location is built up by creating images made from a series of X-ray 'slices' taken through the parchment.

Advanced software specially developed by the Cardiff project team combines the data obtained with information about the way the parchment is rolled or folded up and calculates exactly where the ink sits on the parchment. An image of the document as it would appear unrolled or unfolded can then be produced.

The key difference between the new method and other techniques previously developed to read un-openable historical documents is the unprecedentedly high contrast resolution it provides to distinguish between ink and parchment. This means the ink shows up very well against the parchment and is genuinely readable.

The scanning takes place at the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary, University of London led by Dr Graham Davis: "Because no commercial or research X-ray tomography scanners were capable of providing the quality of image we needed, we've developed our own advanced scanner which is also being adapted for a diverse range of other scientific uses, including those within our own Institute of Dentistry where enhanced, high contrast images are enabling the detection and analysis of features in teeth that we haven't been able to see before."

Professor Tim Wess of Cardiff University says: "This is a milestone in historical information recovery. The conservation community is rightly very protective of old documents and isn't prepared to risk damaging them by opening them. Our breakthrough means they won't have to. Across the world, literally thousands of previously unusable documents up to around a thousand years old could now become available for historical research. It really will be possible to read the unreadable."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. "Reading the unreadable: 'Unopenable' scrolls will yield their secrets to new X-ray system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130516105612.htm>.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. (2013, May 16). Reading the unreadable: 'Unopenable' scrolls will yield their secrets to new X-ray system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130516105612.htm
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. "Reading the unreadable: 'Unopenable' scrolls will yield their secrets to new X-ray system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130516105612.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins