Mike Aquilina

Villa of the Papyri

Monday August 18th 2008, 2:50 pm

When Vesuvius erupted August 24, A.D. 79, it left Pompeii and Herculaneum buried under 30 meters of volcanic mud. We’ve learned so much about Roman life from the excavated bakeries and cafes sealed forever in that long-ago moment, with petrified food still on the tables and petrified bread still in the ovens. Most intriguing to nerds is the haul taken out of the Villa of the Papyri. It’s a library of scrolls that were instantly turned to blocks of charcoal. We don’t know what most of them contain. A month or so ago, a few of us were dreaming about the possibilities. Now The Australian is doing the same. “Scholars today, using multi-spectral imaging technology, are able to decipher the otherwise inscrutable surface of black ink on black fabric of the papyrus scrolls. A multinational team has assembled to transcribe the collection.” There’s no news, as the process has been temporarily halted, but there’s plenty of speculation to fuel our fantasies.