Looking into a Scroll

Today’s article about scrolls from Pompeii fuels the imagination. The papyrus scrolls were dehydrated by the burning volcanic ash, but they are still intact. They cannot be unrolled since they would fall apart like Turkish sweets, and the writing inside was inaccessible for years after it was discovered.

Now people have used high-energy high-intensity X-rays from a beam line to create tomograms of the entire scroll. Each letter shows up as an small surface elevation, created by the dehydrated ink. After much pattern recognition and statistical analysis have been done, I prepare myself for reading a message of this kind:

“On this day of [unreadable] Octavious Maximus [unreadable] decrees that the parcel of land [unreadable] with [?] aforementioned will henceforth [??] … [text breaks off]”

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