There are lost ancient texts hiding before our very eyes. Writers weren't always intending their words for long-term preservation, and the need to reuse precious resources, like animal hide, sometimes meant erasing an old text to make room for the new.The process is explained most clearly in a Live Science article by Rafi Letzter: Blasting This Old Book with X-Rays Could Reveal Greek Physician Galen's Ancient Words.
But modern technology can recover these secret texts, as research taking place this week at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), an instrument housed at a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory in California, shows. The payoffs are worth it: a team began their analysis on Friday and have already identified a previously unreadable page as part of a preface.
That's according to a news release emailed to Live Science yesterday (March 12). The earlier, sixth-century ink reacts a bit differently to X-ray light than the later, 11th-century ink. Under the extreme energies of the lab's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), those differences are significant enough that, according to the statement, the researchers hope to parse the remnants of the original text despite the scraping, the additional ink and the centuries of age.They are currently working on 26 pages of the manuscript.
Background on the Galen Syriac palimpsest is here and links. And for many past PaleoJudaica posts on palimpsest manuscripts, start here and follow the links.
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