In an unusual collaboration among scientists and humanists, a Cornell University team has demonstrated a novel method for recovering faded text on ancient stone by zapping and mapping 2,000-year-old inscriptions using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) imaging.
This is a scan of a group of letters on CIL VI 12139. The top panel is the photographic image. The middle panel is the iron fluorescence; while there is iron fluorescence visible, it becomes very weak in areas that have been significantly worn away. The bottom panel is lead fluorescence. Even in areas that have been significantly weathered, the fluorescence is strong enough to clearly read the text.
The research, carried out at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS), applies a nondestructive chemical analysis technique widely used in geology, archaeology and materials science.
"X-ray fluorescence imaging has the potential to become a major tool in epigraphy [the study of incised writing on various surfaces, including stone]," said Robert Thorne, professor of physics and co-author of an article in a German journal titled "Recovering Ancient Inscriptions by X-ray Fluorescence Imaging." "Its just so much more powerful than anything thats been used in the past."
Blaine P. Friedlander Jr. | EurekAlert!
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