The virtual discovery offers hope for the restoration of damaged historical texts currently preserved in archives all over the world that have yet to be studied. The En-Gedi scroll researchers believe their virtual reconstruction technique is a major development in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis.

They’re not alone; University of Mississippi scholar Gregory Heyworth was so taken with the possibilities of reading ancient texts with futuristic tech that he shifted his professional focus from medieval scholarship to text science and the reconstruction of ancient works. Heyworth now directs the Lazarus Project, a nonprofit that restores damaged and illegible manuscripts and maps with spectral imaging technology.

He gave a TED talk in October 2015 explaining why we need text extraction that can be done without physically handling fragile artifacts: ”Imagine what unknown classics we would discover, which would rewrite the canons of literature, history, philosophy, music—or, more provocatively, that could rewrite our cultural identities, building new bridges between people and culture.”

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