The Herculaneum Scrolls


Herculaneum scrolls, ancient scrolls, ancient Christianity, ancient religion


In 1752 antiquity hunters were tunneling down into a large villa on a hill overlooking Herculaneum and the Bay of Naples when they made the discovery of manuscripts. This villa probably once belonged to the wealthy Roman aristocrat Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a well-known Roman politician, who was a patron of Epicurean philosophers. The villa was lost from history in A.D. 79 in the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius when it was buried by tons of thick volcanic mud that gradually hardened to a concrete-like consistency. Workers searching for artistic treasures in the villa were rewarded by the discovery of many important works of art-in particular a series of bronze busts. Rather than excavating the villa in the traditional manner which would have meant removing the huge layer of volcanic debris that covered the villa, they simply tunneled down through the concrete-like volcanic mud and then around the villa. In the course of their excavations they discovered the carbonized remains of a library of some 1500 papyri rolls-thus the name Villa of the Papyri. Due to the intense heat of the volcanic flow and pressed by the weight of the mud, lava, pumice, and the rubble these rolls were in various states of carbonization-some resembled sticks of charcoal others lumps of coal. Many of the papyri have now been unrolled, read, and published. A team from Brigham Young University were asked to apply Multispectral Imaging technology (MSI) to help scholars transcribe the texts. The images have now provided valuable assistance in reading these ancient texts.

Original Publication Citation

With Steven W. Booras and Douglas M. Chabries. “The Herculaneum Scrolls.” IS&T Reporter: “The Window on Imaging,” Vol. 16.2 (April 2001):1-4.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor