Researchers have discovered ancient texts hidden beneath years of writing in the manuscripts in the library of St. Catherine’s Monastery, including texts by ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates.
St. Catherine’s Monastery is one of the world’s oldest continuously running libraries. It houses some of the world’s oldest and most valuable books and manuscripts, and the monks that watch over them.
In ancient times, monks used to write in ancient languages on parchment, a very valuable material at the time. In many cases, monks used to erase older texts and write new, more important texts on top. The texts with multiple layers of writing are known as palimpsests. In several occasions, they wrote in languages that no longer exist.
Now, using new technology, a team of researchers has developed a way to uncover the ancient writings in the palimpsests at St. Catherine’s and have discovered older texts and languages thought to be long lost. For instance, they found texts written in Caucasian Albanian, a language that stopped being used since the 8th century. Another language is Christian Palestinian Aramaic, which is a mix of Syriac and Greek.
Now the scientists photograph the manuscripts using different parts of the light spectrum, and run the images through an electronic algorithm. This allows them to see the first writing put down on the pages.
Among the findings using the new method, scientists have discovered the earliest examples of writings from Greek philosopher Hippocrates.