From ancient times, words have been recorded that express immortal ideas and thoughts about society, culture, and philosophy. Around the world, people have recorded these writings in a variety of ways. However, we are now more aware than ever of the possibility of losing these recordings of human history. Due to war and political instability, natural disasters and black-market looters cultural relics are in danger of being lost forever. When they are lost, we loose the opportunity for our own and future generations to study and learn from them more about our own history and development.
We are in race to use 21st century technology to preserve the traces of ancient cultures before the relics disappear forever. The first week of July, a team of international computer scientists, conservators and scholars are gathering in Paris to use cutting-edge technology in an attempt to create readable images of text from ancient papyrus scrolls without opening them. Using minimally invasive scanning and virtual unwrapping, the team will seek to examine the interior structure of carbonized scrolls buried by the 79AD eruption of the volcano Vesuvius that also covered the city of Pompeii.
The team, which includes Dr. Brent Seales, Director of the Vis Center as well as a software engineer and a media specialist from the Center, will spend the month of July scanning two scrolls stored at the French National Academy. The goal of the project is to continue developing new technology that could provide a safe way to decipher and preserve more scrolls from Herculaneum, as well as other ancient books, manuscripts and documents that are too fragile to be opened.