It arrived in tatters – but after a decade of delicate restoration Archimedes’ oldest surviving work is now on display.
The 1,000-year-old Archimedes Palimpsest – which was bought at auction by an anonymous buyer for $2 million in 1998 -Â is being showcased at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland.
The ‘Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes’ exhibition tells the story of the text, and the work of dozens of scientists and scholars who uncovered its secrets.
Scholars believe a 10th-century scribe copied the text from Archimedes’ original Greek scrolls. But 200 years later, in Jerusalem in 1229 AD, it was erased and overwritten with a prayer book by a priest called Johannes Myronas.
Mr Noel said the initial ‘defacing’ of the book may have proved vital to its persistence. He said ‘I feel pretty good about Johannes Myronas’ of the scribe whose name was uncovered by x-ray beams on the first page.
He added: ‘If he did not create this prayer book, there was no other way it would have survived. Because of its Christian disguise it was not neglected.’
Display: The ‘Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes’ exhibition tells the story of the text, and the work of dozens of scientists and scholars who uncovered its secrets
Tatters: The script, given its name because it has been written on more than once after the original writing has been scraped or rubbed off, was ‘in bits’ when it arrived at Walters Art Museum more than 12 years ago
The prayer book was cared for through the centuries until 1844 when it was found in a Constantinople convent’s collection.
In 1906, Johan Ludwig Heiberg recognised the text contained previously unknown works by Archimedes and created a new edition of his works.
The manuscript then disappeared for decades and resurfaced in France, where researchers believe a collector commissioned forgery paintings over the text after 1938.
In 2000 a project was begun by a team of experts at the Walters Art Museum to read the erased texts.
By the time they had finished, they had recovered Archimedes’ secrets, rewritten the history of mathematics and discovered entirely new texts from the ancient world.
Archimedes is known for engineering feats, such as water pumps and catapults, and his mathematical writings.
But he’s also immortalized in the exclamation ‘Eureka!’ (I have found it!), which he was said to proclaim after making a discovery about water displacement while in the bath.
The script will be returned to its anonymous owner after the exhibition closes on January 1.
Analysis: In this ultraviolet image of the script, a hidden spiral can be seen in the top centre area
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