Tech Breathes New Life Into Ancient Manuscripts

Digitization, scanning of crumbling manuscripts preserves history
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2009 10:24 AM CDT
An ancient Hebrew document dated to the 2nd century AD was nearly sold on the black market. This loss of artifacts to private collectors is one reason for the push to digitize ancient writings.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Ancient documents have long odds of making it to the present intact, between fires and bugs and the other ravages of time. But today’s technology can tease information even out of charred papyrus scrolls, thanks to CT scans, infrared imaging, and X-ray fluorescence. And from there, digital images can preserve the document for future scholars, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Historians still see a big distinction between priceless ancient texts and jumbles of bits and bytes, but with so many artifacts at risk of being destroyed or looted and sold on the black market, digitization does make sense. The process is expensive, though—thousands of dollars per book—and the number of as-yet-unscanned works can seem daunting.