PASQUALE SORRENTINO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PASQUALE SORRENTINO / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Researchers dating papyrus scroll fragments. These fragments are being carbon dated. This involves measuring the proportion of the carbon-14 isotope in the sample. The carbon is extracted (left), forming carbon dioxide. This is condensed at temperatures of -200 degrees Celsius (upper right) and the proportions of isotopes measured and analysed (lower right). The scrolls were found in the library of the Roman Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, Italy. Upon its excavation, 1800 papyrus scrolls were found, carbonised and preserved by volcanic ash from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 AD. Researchers in the Office of Papyri in Italy's National Library, Naples are working to date, decipher and preserve them.
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