Arts + Culture

Lost ancient texts recovered and published online through international partnership

Sinai Palimpsests Project involved scholars from UCLA Library, St. Catherine’s Monastery and the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library

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St. Paul’s letters
Sinai Palimpsests Project

The undertext of the letters of St. Paul are revealed through spectral imaging and can be seen as faint coffee stain colored letters running perpendicular to the overtext.

Previously unknown classical Greek mythological and medical works, newly discovered classical scientific texts preserved only in Syriac translation, religious writings in extinct languages, an ancient Christian poem describing Old Testament figures in Homeric style and detailed illustrations of plants, buildings and people. All of these and more have re-emerged for the first time in centuries thanks to the efforts of researchers and scholars with UCLA Library, St. Catherine’s Monastery and the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library.

The five-year collaboration, which was supported by the Arcadia Fund, is the largest effort of its kind to recover erased or obscured information from historical source material.

The Sinai Palimpsests Project contains 74 palimpsests totaling some 6,800 pages in 10 languages and containing erased layers of writing from the fifth to the 12th centuries. They are accessible to students, scholars and the public at sinaipalimpsests.org.

“By revealing these long-hidden materials and preserving them for future generations, this project makes possible advanced research and scholarship by scholars around the world,” said Ginny Steel, the UCLA Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian. “We are extremely grateful to Arcadia for its visionary support of this international effort.”

Read the full news release.

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