As scientists warn, numerous Greek and Roman scrolls almost two thousand years old could be destroyed if further excavations are not undertaken immediately. We are talking about the Roman library in Herculaneum – the famous Villa of the Papyri.
The scrolls and the whole city, after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE, disappeared under a huge amount of volcanic ash and stones. Academic researchers claim that the famous Papyrus Villa still hides numerous records underground, which may be an invaluable treasure for historians. Researchers are asking city officials to quickly commission further excavations, as there is concern that the scrolls may be damaged in the event of another eruption or flooding by heavy rainstorms.
The villa, which housed a library with a significant number of scrolls, was discovered between 1752 and 1754. Many unique notes have been extracted from its ruins, including Greek philosophical treatises, incl. Philodemos of Gadara.
A group of researchers led by Robert Fowler argues in a letter to the authorities of Herculaneum that soon some of the excavated scrolls, which could not be read (due to charring), will be able to be penetrated without physical contact. It will be possible thanks to newer and better technologies.
Already now, with the help of x-rays, it has been possible to recognize letters on coiled and charred coils. It turned out that the ink used to write the scrolls contained metal which was visible under the influence of rays. Interestingly, it was previously believed that this type of ink was not used until around 420 CE.
In recent years, all of Italy had to grapple with the problem of a lack of money for numerous archaeological projects. The researchers emphasize that the recovery of the endangered scrolls should be a project for the city authorities.