We check in again with Brent Seales, chair of the computer science department at the University of Kentucky, for an update on his efforts to read ancient scrolls which are unreadable without a X-ray scan and his software to virtually unroll the scrolls. Professor Seales first got our attention a year and a half ago with the news that he had virtually unrolled a carbonized scroll of Leviticus, excavated in 1970 from a burned synagogue on the Dead Sea shore at Engedi.
At the time he took up the Leviticus scroll professor Seales had been at somewhat of a dead end on his efforts to read scrolls from the Villa of the Papyri, excavated a century and a half ago from Herculaneum. The ink on the scrolls was indistinguishable from the burned black papyri. But now professor Seales believes he’s found the solution to that problem, and it may well be that this ancient library, destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, is once again going to be available to interested readers.
One year later, we bring our listeners up to date on the latest from University of Kentucky Computer Science professor Brent Seales and his computer program for virtually opening unopenable ancient texts.
Further work has been done on the carbonized scroll from Engedi that we discussed a year ago, revealing its total contents are the first two chapters of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. New dating, based on the form of the letters in the text, reveals that this book is as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predicting that the top slot on our Top Ten discoveries in Biblical Archaeology list in two months is going to be this item, the reading of the oldest biblical text outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Earlier this year, it was announced that a CT scan of a cigar-shaped charcoal briquette, in reality the remains of a carbonized scroll from the fire-destroyed Byzantine synagogue at Ein Gedi, revealed the Old Testament book of Leviticus.
In this series of interviews we talk with University of Kentucky professor Brent Seales (a University of Wisconsin graduate) about his work, virtually unrolling and reviving ancient texts with computerized tomography and particle accelerators.
Archaeologists gather in Atlanta next month, and maybe somebody can top this. We’ll see.