(ORDO NEWS) — Rochester Institute of Technology students discovered a hidden message in the pages of an ancient manuscript. The 15th century manuscript is now being studied by historians who must decipher the hidden text.
Sometimes the secrets of ancient letters and artifacts can be hidden for centuries, until scientists accidentally stumble upon them.
Using UV fluorescence imaging technology, the young scientists discovered that the manuscript was actually a palimpsest, that is, the new text of the manuscript was written on parchment that was already in use. Parchment paper used to be very expensive, so the old text was often scraped off. Although it is impossible to notice the marks of old writing with the naked eye, a chemical trace remains on the paper, which can be detected with some tricks.
Parchment from the Cary Graphic Arts Collection was analyzed as part of a UV fluorescence imaging system test. “Using our system, we placed the manuscript under ultraviolet light, it showed that there is additional italics under the main text,” says student Zoe Lalena. “It was amazing because this document has been in the Cary Graphic Arts Collection for about ten years now and no one noticed it.”
The discovery stunned collection curator Stephen Galbraith, who says these ancient letters have been carefully analyzed by scholars in the past. However, until now, documents have never been placed under ultraviolet light.
“The students provided incredibly important information about two of our manuscripts by discovering texts we did not know about,” comments Galbraith. “To fully understand our own collections, we need to know everything about them, and science helps us with that.”
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