New technology can tease out letters inked on thousands of pieces of papyrus that were badly blackened, yet preserved, by the infamous volcanic eruption.
Via Wikimedia Commons
In 79 A.D., Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii, a town south of Naples. Much of the town’s relics and dead were well-preserved by the volcano’s ash, but the scrolls in a library in nearby Herculaneum—called the Villa de Papyri for the discovery made there—were left blackened, and so delicate that to even touch them risked their destruction. Scholars despaired that despite finding so many scrolls (about 1,800 at this time) their state of ruination would forever keep their secrets a mystery.