Posted by: viscenter | July 10, 2009

First Scans of the Herculaneum Papyri

First 3D scan of scroll

First 3D scan of scroll

Today represents an exciting step forward for the EDUCE project:  the team acquired a preliminary CT-scan of PHerc Paris 3, a complete unopened scroll from Herculaneum.  Earlier in the week, they mounted the scroll in a special container to support it during scanning inside the SkyScan 1173.  With protection from this meticulously constructed custom mounting container, the scroll can stand on end while the scanner rotates it in a gentle pirouette.  The team is poised to begin acquiring scans at the best resolution and with the best possible contrast, revealing the internal layers and giving hope to the goal of eventually “virtually unrolling” the layers to read the text.

The preliminary scans completed the first week of equipment set up and testing. The research team has been working to establish the equipment necessary to acquire micro-CT scans of the Herculaneum papyri.  The research environment has come together from three different countries, and includes twelve terabytes of storage capacity, the SkyScan 1173 micro-CT scanner, and several computers to drive the EDUCE team’s software.

PHerc Paris 4, a complete unopened scroll from Herculaneum

PHerc Paris 3, a complete unopened scroll from Herculaneum

In addition to the successful preliminary scans, the team was also honored by a visit today by M. Jean Leclant, Secrétaire Perpétuel de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.  It was his personal initiative and approval that made the team’s visit for this work possible.  He and his wife spent time with the EDUCE team discussing the project, reviewing results and the research plan, and expressing support and enthusiasm for the work.

M. Jean Leclant and Dr. W. Brent Seales

M. Jean Leclant and Dr. W. Brent Seales

Watch this blog for our next post.  Next week the team hopes to show a high-resolution slice of the internal structure of a complete Herculaneum scroll. Although the French will celebrate Bastille Day next Tuesday, 14 July, and the Institut will close its doors on Monday and Tuesday to celebrate this national holiday, the research team plans to film, photograph, and crunch some data in anticipation of the next step in the progress of the EDUCE project.



  1. This is cool as hell, Godspeed 🙂


  3. Cool!


    • The original scans were 14-20 microns the lates scannners could improve that by 1,000 to 10,000 times, now just to get thank ink to show up!

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