The Herculaneum Papyrus Project: Pursuing Phase II
Roger T. Macfarlane
Brigham Young University
Technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory renders the first ancient library unearthed in modern times more legible than it ever was since its discovery in 1752. The deeply carbonized scrolls from Herculaneum's Villa of the Papyri were challenging to unroll and difficult to read. Indeed, since the time of their unrolling, some of the scrolls have been deemed utterly illegible or even blank. But Multispectral Images (MSI) captured by technicians from Brigham Young University's Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts have improved readings of virtually every available Herculaneum text. The digital photography that was designed originally to allow interplanetary explorers to peer through clouds of gas now enables scholars to read a black-on-white image of scrolls so blackened by the ravages of Vesuvius that the naked eye is able to discern no traces of ink whatever.
Collaboration between the Italian National Library and scholars in Provo has produced agreements regarding the creation of a website that will allow for the dissemination of the remarkable images of the Herculaneum Papyri. Scheduled to become publically accessible in January 2006, the site will feature the MSI but also many important ancillaria such as digitized images of the Neapolitan apographs. The site will comprise a significant contribution to the Advanced Papyrological Information System. Providing for the dissemination and reading of the MSI has constituted the second phase of the Herculaneum Papyrus Project. This is the phase that will be presented in the proposed paper. Samples from the website will be shown and discussed.
The first phase of the Herculaneum Papyrus Project has involved the capture of over 30,000 raw digital images of the texts archived in Naples. Other P.Herc. texts at the Institut de France have been imaged, and negotiations are ongoing to allow the imaging of papyri in other collections. As this abstract comes due, the National Library has cleared a new class of P.Herc. texts and the ISPART technical team is engaged in their digitization. It is anticipated that preliminary results of their session can be reported in Madison in April.
Time required for presentation: 20 minutes (with illustrations)
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