The Charred Scrolls of Herculaneum

From Archaeology Magazine by Jason Urbanus:

“Herculaneum’s Villa of the Papyri was one of the most luxurious Roman properties to have been buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The sprawling waterfront estate (on which the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is modeled) likely belonged to Lucius Calpurnius Piso, father-in-law of Julius Caesar. It contained countless masterpieces of ancient art, but its greatest treasure might have been its library—and the nearly 1,800 papyrus scrolls that were discovered there in the mid-eighteenth century. It is the only library from antiquity to have survived. When Vesuvius erupted, the Villa of the Papyri was hit by a 600-degree Fahrenheit blast of hot gas and ash, which instantly carbonized the papyrus scrolls, transforming them into charred cylindrical lumps, and, surprisingly, preserving them. Since their discovery more than 250 years ago, scholars have attempted to unroll and translate the fragile scrolls, many of which contain Greek texts on Epicurean philosophy, particularly some written by the philosopher Philodemus. Recently, a team of scientists has pioneered a new, safer method of deciphering the texts.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s