BYU faculty will travel to Italy to create electronic images of ancient scrolls

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    By KATIE CHRISTENSEN

    The dean and assistant dean of BYU’s Engineering and Technology Department will travel to Italy on Monday to image the ancient scrolls of Herculaneum.

    Dean Douglas M. Chabries and Assistant Dean Dave Anthony have been selected by FARMS — The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies — to travel to Herculaneum, Italy to digitize pictures of ancient scrolls.

    “This is a very exciting event because we are looking at something the rest of the world considered lost for so long,” Anthony said.

    Herculaneum, similar to the city of Pompei, was an ancient city that was covered by lava from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. A layer of lava has covered the city since the eruption.

    For several years, the government of Italy has been excavating sections of the city, Chabries said. The excavation has discovered the Library of Philodemus, which consists of approximately 2000 scrolls, Chabries said.

    Chabries and Anthony said they will be assisting in digitizing the carbonized scrolls with special multi-spectral imaging techniques.

    FARMS is looking throughout the world for very old manuscripts that are in danger and Herculaneum is one of them, said Brent Hall, the director of FARMS. Hall said many scrolls have been destroyed by war and time.

    He said it is important to work on the scrolls before time destroys them. One of the main purpose of FARMS is to digitize scrolls so scholars can study them, Hall said.

    The center has done work on the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran and the scrolls found at Petra, Jordan, Hall said.

    Hall said they have several groups working on ancient scrolls throughout the world. Currently there is a team in Lebanon, another group at the Vatican library and the group that will soon leave to Herculaneum, Hall said.

    Hall said BYU is privileged to be asked to image ancient scrolls. He said the opportunity comes from the great reputation of previous work on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    “People feel confident with us. We have a great worldwide reputation,” Hall said.

    BYU is known for its skills both in language and technology which adds to FARMS’s ability to do prestigious work on ancient scrolls, Hall said.

    Hall said BYU, Notre Dame and Jerusalem are the three most prestigious centers for work on ancient scrolls.

    Herculaneum is one of the most recent projects for FARMS, Hall said. He said by participating in this project, FARMS is helping preserve precious materials that might have easily been destroyed.

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