Famed classical works rediscovered

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Researchers at Oxford University are using state-of-the-art technology to uncover works from some of the most important writers of the ancient world, works which have not been read for many centuries. They come from a cache of papyri that were salvaged about a hundred years ago in the Greco-Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchus.

The ink on many of these papyri had faded to the point that no text at all was visible to the naked eye, yet using state of the art techniques borrowed from satellite imaging, researchers were able to use infra-red light to see the faded ink.

There are thousands of manuscripts which are set to be read in this manner, and works of Sophocles, Euripides, and Hesiod which have been unavailable for well over a thousand years have already been recovered. The process by which these papyri are reconstructed is very time consuming — it will take a decade to finish the entire corpus. Among the documents set to be analysed include previously lost writings of Aeschylus, Ovid, and a series of Christian gospels.


David Keys and Nicholas Pyke. "Decoded at last: the 'classical holy grail' that may rewrite the history of the world" — The Independent, April 17, 2005