One of the scrolls used in the current study
But most of the rolls were too fragile to be unrolled, not matter how slowly and carefully. So they have been sitting around for 260 years, waiting for someone to find a way to read them. X-rays were tried long ago, but to ordinary x-rays the carbon-based ink looks just like the paper, so no luck there. But these days of course our imaging technology is vastly better than it was even 20 years ago.
has been able to read at least a few letters and words from a rolled-up scroll. Nothing exciting has yet been discovered; this is what the investigators described as a "proof of concept." Eventually we should have even faster and more precise machines, which when hooked to a supercomputer might allow reading all the surviving scrolls in a reasonable amount of time.
Plus, 2,800 square meters of the Villa of the Papyri (reconstruction at top) remain to be excavated, and some people expect to find other rooms full of scrolls, some of which might not be by justly forgotten philosophers. Almost all of the hundreds of thousands of books that circulated in the Roman world have been lost, but maybe, just maybe, these methods will allow us to recover a few of the missing ones.
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