A PAIR of 2,000-year-old scrolls from a house owned by Julias Caesar's family will be virtually unwrapped using sophisticated technology in Oxfordshire.

The scrolls, which look like charred logs, were essentially turned into charcoal by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which famously wiped out the nearby city of Pompeii.

They are far too fragile unfurl and researchers say they represent the perfect storm of important content, massive damage, extreme fragility and difficult-to-detect ink.

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Now, scientists at the Diamond Light Source laboratory in Harwell have scanned the scrolls for the first time using their super-powerful X-Ray machine.

Professor Brent Seales of the University of Kentucky, who is leading the project, said the project could mean that, after decades of effort, scientists could finally be able to read the scrolls for the first time in 2000 years.

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He said: “Diamond Light Source is an absolutely crucial element in our long-term plan to reveal the writing from damaged materials.

"The lab offers unparalleled brightness and control for the images we can create, plus access to a brain trust of scientists who understand our challenges and are eager to help us succeed.

“Texts from the ancient world are rare and precious, and they simply cannot be revealed through any other known process.”

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The famous papyri were discovered in 1752 in an ancient Roman villa near the Bay of Naples believed to belong to the family of Julius Caesar.

The majority of the 1,800 scrolls from the town of Herculaneum are now kept at the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli in Italy.

However, some were offered as gifts to dignitaries by the King of Naples and a few of those wound up at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

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The two scrolls now being scanned belong to the Institut de France.

Last May, a team examined them along with four small fragments from scrolls unrolled in the late 1800s.

Now, all six items have been scanned at Diamond Light Source.

The data is now being analysed - a process that could take several months.

Prof Seales said the use of carbon ink was one of the main reasons these scrolls had evaded deciphering.

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Unlike metal-based inks, its density is similar to that of the carbonised papyrus on which it sits, and therefore appears invisible in X-rays.

The technology amplifies the ink signal recognising exactly where the ink is using photographs of opened fragments from the scrolls.

All of this has been made possible by the hugely powerful ring-shaped particle accelerator at Diamond which produces a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun in 'beamlines'.

Diamond's principle beamline scientist Dr Thomas Connolley added: “We are very excited to work with the research team, playing our part in what we hope will be a major step forward in unlocking the secrets that the scrolls contain.”