State-of-the-art imaging technology has been used to analyze an ancient Jewish manuscript – revealing how it has been degraded and repaired over time.
Romanian researchers have used different parts of the light spectra to expose the hidden history of the scroll, which contains chapters from the Hebrew Bible.
The findings could help conservatives understand how best to restore the artifact – using appropriate materials and, if necessary, nullifying past repair efforts.
State-of-the-art imaging technology was used to analyze an ancient Jewish manuscript – revealing how it was degraded and repaired over time. In the picture, a series of images of the scroll, which show different types of degradation that affected the ancient document
“The purpose of the study was to understand what the passage of time has brought to the object, how it has been degraded and what would be the best approach for its future conservation process,” said author and physicist Luminita Ghervase.
A combination of imaging techniques was used on the private sacred scroll – which contained several chapters from the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible, but was in poor condition.
“The use of complementary investigation techniques can shed light on the unknown history of such an object,” added Dr. Ghervase, who hails from the National Institute for Research and Development in Optoelectronics in Romania.
“For several years now, non-invasive and non-destructive investigation techniques have been the first choice in investigating cultural heritage objects, in order to comply with one of the main rules of conservation practice, which is not to harm the object.”
Multispectral imaging – which uses different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum – has normally revealed invisible details about the wear of the manuscript.
A dark stain on the parchment appeared when viewed with ultraviolet light, suggesting that the document was repaired in the past using an organic material such as resin.
The researchers then used so-called hyperspectral imaging – in which information from each pixel of the image is collected from the entire spectrum – to analyze the composition of the ink material on the parchment.
Two different types of ink were detected – providing additional evidence to suggest that someone had previously set out to repair the roll.
Then, the researchers used a computerized algorithm to further decompose the nature of the parchment materials.
Romanian researchers have used different parts of the light spectra to expose the hidden history of the scroll, which contains chapters from the Hebrew Bible. In the image, scrolling viewed through different wavelengths of light, from visible (left) to near infrared (right)
“The algorithm used to classify materials has the potential to be used to identify traces of ink to deduce the possible original shape of the letters,” explained Dr. Ghervase.
The roll was then exposed to an imaging technique known as X-ray fluorescence to identify chemicals used in both ink and parchment manufacturing.
Rich concentrations of zinc have been found in rolls. This metal is often associated with bleaching processes, but its presence could also be a sign of past restoration.
Finally, the team used a so-called Fourier-transformed infrared spectrometer to study how some of the chemicals in the parchment changed over time.
The findings could help conservatives understand how best to restore the artifact – using appropriate materials and, if necessary, nullifying previous repair efforts. Pictured: front (top) and back (bottom) of the manuscript, as seen by the examination of ultraviolet fluorescence
The researchers were able to determine how quickly the roll was damaged by examining the amount of collagen that is produced from the animal’s skin.
Combining these techniques could help professionals restore ancient pieces of history to their former glory.
“I can wisely decide whether inappropriate materials have been used and whether these materials should be removed,” said Dr. Ghervase.
“Moreover, restorers can choose the most suitable materials for the restoration and conservation of the object, excluding any incompatible materials.”
The full results of the study were published in the journal Frontiers in Materials.