The University of Kentucky Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments

Scans Reveal the Internal Structure of Ancient Scrolls

Close-up of internal structure from high-resolution scan of PHerc.Paris 4

Close-up of internal structure from high-resolution scan of PHerc.Paris 4

The EDUCE research team has been making adjustments this week in order to fine tune the quality of the micro-CT scans. With expert help from the SkyScan engineers (, the next step is the systematic and time-consuming process of scanning every millimeter of both scrolls (PHerc.Paris 3 and PHerc.Paris 4) at the highest resolution possible. These scans, once captured and safely stored in the redundant data storage system, will give the team enormous options for analysis, including the search for visible text. For now, the internal structure in 3D is clearly visible.

In June Professor Seales gave a presentation to the members of the French Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in Paris during which he stated, “We do not know how a complete roll will appear under micro-CT. I speculate that the structure could be different from what we expect: to my knowledge, no one has examined the structure of a complete, intact roll.”

Fireworks exlode celebrating Bastille Day and the 120th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower.

Fireworks celebrate Bastille Day and the 120th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower.

As the team beings examining the scans we are seeing an internal structure that is chaotic, far from the regular spirals one might expect from a scroll. Given the intense heat and pressure of the Vesuvius explosion, followed by two thousand years of survival, perhaps the miracle is that there is anything left from the Herculaneum library at all.

The week’s work, which began with the celebration of Bastille Day, has ended with an extraordinary peek inside the twists and turns of the layers of these two remarkable scrolls. The exuberant fireworks display, celebrating both Bastille Day and the 120th anniversary of the construction of the Eiffel tower, led a crowd of enthusiastic spectators through a vivid tour of the past 120 years of history. For the EDUCE research team, assembled together on the Champs de Mars to see the amazing show, the fire and smoke was also a reminder of Vesuvius’ eruption almost 2000 years ago, which began the long chain of events that has led to this exciting work Paris.

Check the blog next week for a first look at 3D video of the scroll’s structure.

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