February 24, 2014

Press Release - Huntington Exhibition Demonstrates How Conservation and High-Tech Imaging Revealed an Ancient Text by Archimedes




“Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes” on view in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery March 15–June 22, 2014




Ca. 287 B.C. - Archimedes is born in Syracuse, Sicily.


 263-214 B.C. - Archimedes develops most of his major ideas, including:


  • The fundamental principles of mechanics

  • Methods for finding the center of gravity, surface area, and volume of geometric figures

  • An estimate of the value of pi

  • The principle of buoyancy


 214-212 B.C. - The Romans conquer Syracuse. They are held at bay for two years, and Archimedes is instrumental in the defense of the city, strengthening the walls and devising war machines.Archimedes is killed by a Roman soldier when the city is finally sacked.


950 A.D. - A scribe copies Archimedes’ works into the Archimedes Manuscript in Constantinople(present day Istanbul).


1229 - The Archimedes texts are erased, and their parchment, together with the parchment of six other books, is used to make a prayer book in Jerusalem.


Ca. 1500-1800 - The prayer book with “hidden” Archimedes text is used at the Monastery of St. Sabas in the Judean desert (in the present day West Bank).


Late 1800s - Archimedes scholar Johan Ludvig Heiberg sees the book in Istanbul and recognizes seven treatises by Archimedes underneath the prayers.


Ca. 1920 - The book disappears and ends up in the hands of the French antiquities dealer Salomon Guerson.


Ca. 1940 - Forged illuminations are painted on leaves of the Palimpsest.


1998 - Archimedes Palimpsest is sold at auction to a private American collector.


2000 - Walters Art Museum conservators begin to disband and conserve the Palimpsest.


2001 - Imaging scientists begin to produce pseudocolor images of the Palimpsest, and scholarly deciphering begins.


2002 - Lost speeches of Hyperides are discovered in the Palimpsest.


2004 - Conservators finish disbanding and conserving the Palimpsest.


2005 - A lost commentary on Aristotle’s Categories is discovered in the Palimpsest.


2006 - Forgeries in the Palimpsest are imaged at the Stanford Synchotron Radiation Laboratory. The name of the scribe of the prayer book is discovered.


2008 - Archimedes Palimpsest digital images and transcriptions are distributed for free on the Internet.


2011 - Archimedes Palimpsest goes on display in Walters Art Museum exhibition.


About The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution established in 1919 by Henry E. and Arabella Huntington. Henry Huntington, a key figure in the...

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