MODERNITY

X-Rays Reveal Mysteries of Mt. Vesuvius

For the first time, scientists will be able to read the charred, rolled-up scrolls from the two-millennium-old library of Herculaneum. That library, which was destroyed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, is “the only ancient library to survive together with its books,” the scientists who made the breakthrough wrote. The researchers have used X-rays to read the scrolls, which until now could not be opened without serious risk of destroying them. While so far they have only been able to read words here and there, they believe one of the texts is by Philodemus, the Greek philosopher.