Tudor parchment burned and fused together is deciphered by X-ray

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Secrets of 500-year-old scroll are finally revealed by X-RAY: Tudor plans for a country house burned and fused together in centuries-old accident are finally decoded

  • The scroll contained records of a country house in Norwich in the 16th century
  • Cardiff University experts deployed the scanning method to ‘virtually unravel’ it 
  • The technique involved X-ray tomography which is normally used by doctors

Tim Stickings For Mailonline

A 16th-century scroll which was burned and fused together hundreds of years ago can finally be read thanks to a new X-ray technique.

Cardiff University experts deployed the scanning method to ‘virtually unravel’ the long-lost document which could not be opened without destroying it.  

The scans reveal ‘blobs’ in the texts which can then be deciphered using advanced computer algorithms. 

The reading of the scroll, which had been charred and damaged centuries ago, revealed records of a country house in Tudor England.

A 16th-century scroll (pictured) which was left unreadable after it was burned and fused together hundreds of years ago can finally be read thanks to a new X-ray technique

A 16th-century scroll (pictured) which was left unreadable after it was burned and fused together hundreds of years ago can finally be read thanks to a new X-ray technique

A 16th-century scroll (pictured) which was left unreadable after it was burned and fused together hundreds of years ago can finally be read thanks to a new X-ray technique

How was the scroll’s text revealed? 

The researchers’ technique, which involves collaborators from the UK and across the world, firstly involves using X-ray tomography.

Usually reserved for use in the medical field, the process create thousands of thin cross-sections of the scroll. 

In each cross-section, ink from the scroll is made visible as bright blobs.

Using highly advanced computer algorithms, the team are then able to piece together each of the cross sections and their associated ink marks to form a flat representation of the scroll.  

Medical CT scans – whose name stands for computerised tomography – use X-rays and a computer to create detailed images.  

They can be used to diagnose conditions to bones and internal organs as well as determining the size, location and shape of a tumour.  

The text gave details about Diss Heywood Manor in Norwich – including disturbances of the peace and payment of fines and who was responsible for upkeep of the land.  

Researchers are now hunting for more previously unreadable texts to ‘unravel’ using the same technique. 

Experts confirmed the document it is a record of the Curia Generalis, the General Court, which usually refers to the Court Leet where peace keeping functions were exercised.

The results also confirmed that the scroll deals with land transactions and possibly testamentary business. It was also possible to pick out names of individuals. 

Professor Paul Rosin, the principal investigator, said: ‘The scroll from Diss Heyword was an extremely challenging sample to work with.

‘Nevertheless, we’ve shown that even with the most challenging of samples, we can successfully draw information from it.

‘We know that there is a large body of historical documents in museums and archives that are too fragile to be opened or unrolled, so we would certainly welcome the opportunity to try out our new techniques.

‘Similarly, the method we’ve developed is heavily automated, opening up the possibility of exploring a larger range of documents and even other types of media, such as old and damaged camera films.’ 

The text gave details about Diss Heywood Manor in Norwich - including disturbances of the peace and payment of fines and who was responsible for upkeep of the land

The text gave details about Diss Heywood Manor in Norwich - including disturbances of the peace and payment of fines and who was responsible for upkeep of the land

The text gave details about Diss Heywood Manor in Norwich – including disturbances of the peace and payment of fines and who was responsible for upkeep of the land

Experts confirmed the document it is a record of the Curia Generalis, the General Court, which usually refers to the Court Leet where peace keeping functions were exercised

Experts confirmed the document it is a record of the Curia Generalis, the General Court, which usually refers to the Court Leet where peace keeping functions were exercised

Experts confirmed the document it is a record of the Curia Generalis, the General Court, which usually refers to the Court Leet where peace keeping functions were exercised

The researchers' technique, which involves collaborators from the UK and across the world, firstly involves using X-ray tomography. Pictured: the tomography of the scrolls 

The researchers' technique, which involves collaborators from the UK and across the world, firstly involves using X-ray tomography. Pictured: the tomography of the scrolls 

The researchers’ technique, which involves collaborators from the UK and across the world, firstly involves using X-ray tomography. Pictured: the tomography of the scrolls 

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