The library at Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continually operating library in the world.
Among its thousands of ancient parchments are at least 160 palimpsests—manuscripts that bear faint scratches and flecks of ink beneath more recent writing.
Together, these photographs help reveal the minute traces of ink left on the pages after they were erased or the scratches left by a scribe’s quill.
Computer algorithms then analyze and combine the images so the text on top can be separated from the words below.
Scholars studying the early scriptures of the Christian faith, historians looking for clues about life in Medieval Egypt, and linguists searching for scraps of ancient languages have all pored over the parchments.
In the margins, some parts of the older under-texts have remained visible, giving some clues to the content beneath.
Three previously unknown Greek medical treatises have also been found, including one that contains the oldest known recipe credited to Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine.
For classical and medieval scholars, the ability to read these lost texts has brought new energy to their field.Its library was famous as a center of learning even its very earliest days, and the tinder-dry climate has helped to preserve the delicate parchments.At times in the past, however, the monks found themselves stranded without fresh supplies.In real time he was saying ‘now we have the word for Another dead language to be found in the palimpsests is one used by some of the earliest Christian communities in the Middle East.Known as Christian Palestinian Aramaic, it is a strange mix of Syriac and Greek that died out in the 13th century.Scribes were often forced to reuse older parchments, each composed of hundreds of pages.