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This technology allows the researchers to read the original texts for the first time since they were wiped away, revealing lost ancient poems and early religious texts and doubling the known vocabulary of languages that have not been used for more than 1,000 years.
Today, these parchments are delicate gold mines of historical importance.
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.
Scribes were often forced to reuse older parchments, each composed of hundreds of pages.
They would carefully wash them with lemon juice and scrape them clean of text.