Images of f.098v-102r before and after processing. Copyright retained by the Owner of the Archimedes Palimpsest
The original manuscript was copied onto pages of parchment (treated
animal skin) from an earlier manuscript that may have been a papyrus
scroll -- the parchment manuscript is formatted in columns as a scroll
would have been. The leaves of the original Archimedes codex
were approximately the size of a
sheet of standard
notebook paper. The pages were bound into a book and kept in a library
in Constantinople (now Istanbul). In those days,
parchment writing materials were so valuable that they were commonly
reused when the book was considered "out of date" or if the subject was
judged inappropriate or less valuable.
The book was disbound and erased in the 12th century, probably after Constantinople was sacked in April 1204 during the Fourth Crusade. The pages were erased by scraping the ink off with a solvent (perhaps orange juice), cut in half down the center, and rebound as a smaller book, along with pages from other important writings, including speeches by the Attic orator Hyperides and a commentary on Aristotle's "Categories" by Alexander of Aphrodisias (news featured on the websites of the BBC and National Geographic). The pages were overwritten with the text of a Christian prayer book, the Euchologion. Such overwritten manuscripts are called palimpsests, from the Greek word palimpsesto ("scraped again"). From the image of the colophon of the Euchologion made during this project, we have found that the prayer book was dedicated on April 13, 1229.
The book spent the next 700 years at various religious shrines in the holy land. Its existence first became known to western civilization in the middle 1800s when its existence was recognized by Constantin von Tischendorf, who is better known for discovering the Codex Sinaiticus (a Greek manuscript of the Bible) at Saint Catherine's monastery on Mount Sinai. The Archimedes Palimpsest was studied extensively by Johan Ludvig Heiberg in 1906. The translation of Heiberg's transcription of Archimedes' treatise The Method has been posted on Google Books.
After Heiberg's work, the book disappeared again and was feared lost until it resurfaced in the late 1990s. It was sold at auction by Christies in 1998 to an anonymous American collector, who has made the book available for study. An international team of scholars, conservators, and imaging scientists is currently studying the palimpsest to recover the original writing.
The investigation and significance of the Archimedes Palimpsest is
the subject of the program
broadcast by PBS on NOVA on
30 September 2003. A low-resolution copy of the program is currently available on YouTube in six segments (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 -- the imaging work is described in segment #5). The DVD is available
from many vendors, including the WGBH
store and Amazon.com.
The work was selected as one
imaging "Solutions of the Year" by Advanced Imaging Magazine in
So far, we have successfully extracted approximately 80% of the
text using multispectral imaging, which combines images taken under a
variety of conditions and at different wavelengths. We also are using
more exotic techniques to try to
read the remaining text, including x-ray fluorescence
imaging (XRF) at the Stanford
Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory. Some photos of the process at
SSRL are shown here. An
article by Mary Miller that focused on the XRF imaging was published in
Magazine in March 2007.
Another imaging session was held at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore on 11-21 November 2006, including experiments with a large-format digital back (Leaf Aptus, 32 Megapixels) lent by Leaf Imaging (thanks to Kevin Stuts of Leaf for his essential assistance), an experimental imaging spectrometer supplied by Greg Bearman of JPL, and experiments with raking-light and LED illumination. Dr. Jud Herrman from Allegheny University was there and able to give quick feedback on the usefulness of the images to read the writings of Hyperides. A report on Jud's effort was published in the New York Times and the International Herald-Tribune.The entire manuscript was imaged in August 2007 at the Walters Art Museum using light-emitting diode illumination (LEDs) fabricated by Bill Christens-Barry of Equipoise Imaging LLC and a camera system from Stokes Imaging. The raw and processed images are now posted on the Archimedes Palimpsest website.
The Archimedes Codex, by Dr. Reviel Netz of Stanford University and Dr. William Noel of the Walters Art Museum was published in the UK on 10 May 2007 and in the USA in September 2007. The paperback is now available. The book covers the history of the Archimedes Palimpsest and the efforts made to read the textThe palimpsest was the subject of cover stories in the British Institute of Radiology News in Winter 2006 and in the Los Angeles Times on December 26, 2006. It was featured in RIT's "University Magazine" in Spring 2007.
is available at the Archimedes Palimpsest website,
the cover story in the London
Sunday Times Magazine of 17 June 2001, the cover story in Physics
Today, of June 2000, and in an ABC
News Report on 20 October 2000. Will Noel, Mike Toth, and I
presented a talk at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA, on 7
March 2006 that is available on YouTube.
Will Noel and I presented the talk Infinite Possibilities: Eight Years of Study of the Archimedes Palimpsest as part of the Walter L. Robb Symposium for Promoting Useful Knowledge for the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia on 25 April 2007. The webcast has been posted.Military History Quarterly published an article about the significance of the Hypereides speech On Diondas about the Battle of Chaeronea in 480 BCE in the issue for Winter 2008 (Vol. 20, #2, pp. 28-35).
Diane Kucharczyk, formerly an undergraduate student at the Chester
Carlson Center for Imaging Science, and Russell Knox, then a student at
Brighton High School, NY, developed a K-12 classroom activity
based on the work to extract text from the Archimedes Palimpsest. This
is available as an HTML Powerpoint file.
This treatise in the Archimedes Palimpsest had been thought to describe a game similar to "Tangrams". Reviel Netz of Stanford University has suggested that the Stomachion really is about geometrical "combinatorics", which is the study of the number of combinations of shapes that produces a specific result. This work was reported in a cover story in the New York Times of December 14, 2003.
at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lab (SSRL)
Uwe Bergmann of the Stanford Synchrotron
Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), which is part of the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center (SLAC), is leading the effort to image the most
difficult and important pages of the Archimedes palimpsest using X-Ray
Fluorescence (XRF). A page of the palimpsest is raster scanned
through the X-ray beam. The X rays are "scattered" by atoms in the
palimpsest; the incident X ray ionizes an inner shell electron from the
atom and another electron drops into the resulting "hole" while
releasing another lower-energy X-ray photon. The energy of the
emitted photon is characteristic of the ionized atom. In this way, a
map of the constituent materials in the palimpsest may be constructed.
The results obtained thus far have been very encouraging, allowing much
previously unreadable text on the first folio to be read.
The Temple Scroll was discovered in 1947 in Cave 11 near Qumran. It is the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls -- originally 28' long in 67 columns. We processed color transparencies of images taken by Bruce and Ken Zuckerman. We projected the 3-D color data at each pixel (i.e., the RGB gray values) to an opponent color space (luminance, red-green, and blue-yellow) From these images, we have been able to distinguish 18 characters that had not been recognized previously by Biblical scholars.Our efforts to clarify the so-called Temple Scroll were reported in an article "Imaging the Dead Sea Scrolls" in Optics and Photonics News, 8(8), pp. 30-34, August 1997. This article was awarded the Archie Mahan Prize for the best paper published in in OPN that year.
In 1997, Dr. Robert Johnston arranged with Dr. James Charlesworth of
Princeton Theological Seminary for us to image several fragments of the
original cache of Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered near Qumran
in 1947. The original scrolls were purchased by Mar Athanasius Samuel,
who was the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop in Jerusalem in 1947. He kept
several fragments and bequeathed them to the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral
in Teaneck, NJ, where they were in the custody of Father John Peter
Meno. The fragments are encased between sheets of glass and thus may
not be imaged using ultraviolet light.
We took Bob's first-generation Kodak
DCS-100 digital camera to the library of the
seminary, with a resolution of 1280 ×1024 8-bit monochrome pixels
(1.3 Megapixels). Father Meno brought the fragments from Teaneck.
As shown in the images,
portions of each fragment were darkened by damage and difficult or
impossible to read. As it happens, the reflectance of the darkened
parchment is larger in the near infrared region of the spectrum. By
using an infrared-transmitting filter over the camera lens, the
contrast of the text in the damaged region is restored.
The Khaboris Codex
is the oldest known copy of the New Testament written in the original
dating from the 10th century. We worked with Michael
Ryce to image the manuscript and develop a public website where the
images would be available for scholarly study. A webpage with the pages
of the manuscript is available at http://www.cis.rit.edu/~rlepci/khaboris.html.
We have collaborated with Evelyn Cohen from the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America to reveal the writing on the Colophon (which is a
from the scribe to the patron) of a Hebrew Siddur copied in Florence,
Italy. Evelyn published a paper on the significance of this work, Gallico's Identity Exposed: Revealing an Erased Colophon from a
Renaissance Prayer Book, Ars Judaica, pp. 85-90, 2005.
A short summary of this work is available as a PDF document.
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