Intensive efforts are underway to uncover centuries-old hidden writings of Greek mathematician Archimedes. Researches at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) are utilizing advanced X-ray technology to uncover writings of Archimedes once completely unknown. Discovered in 1906 by then-Professor J.L. Heiberg of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, the hidden text appeared within historical monastic prayer documents. The ancient practice of washing text away to make reuse material is called “Palimpsesting”.
The Archimedes Palimpsest writings lingered unseen for centuries, seemingly purged from the documents forever, until Professor Heiburg began to review small scrawls beneath the visible text. At SLAC, a revolutionary modern analysis of the writing medium has been made – revealing they do contain historically important information left behind by Archimedes, Hidden from the naked eye.
When confronted with an engineering challenge involving their Synchrotron X-Ray source, SLAC issued a request to Lenox Laser to produce microscopic laser-drilled holes in thin Tungsten film. These small apertures would prove critical to the team’s success in uncovering the Palimpsest’s “hidden treasure”.
Using a new X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) technique, the team at SLAC, along with other collaborations, revealed writings involving mathematics and science once hidden for more than 1000 years. Conservation scientists are referencing this experiment to encourage similar new endeavors. Could many more documents in historical collections today hold hidden texts currently unknown? Time and Technology will tell.
The SLAC experiment has proven successful, and the story was featured on several prominent news and documentary programs. The Archimedes Palimpsest rests at the Walter’s Art Gallery in Baltimore, MD – continuously monitored by preservation professionals, and studied regularly by scholars from around the world.