'Post-it notes of antiquity’ might reveal names of Ancient Judean soldiers

A specific imaging technology, known as multispectral imaging, is uncovering hidden writing on 2,000-year-old potsherds.

THE SECOND Temple, model in the Israel Museum, 2008. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
THE SECOND Temple, model in the Israel Museum, 2008.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Names and titles of soldiers who fought in the First Jewish-Roman War might soon be revealed thanks to research by a George Washington University professor, Newsweek has reported.
The research used imaging technology known as multispectral imaging to uncover hidden writing on 2,000-year-old potsherds.
According to Chris Rollston from the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the results are going to shed light on previously unknown details of the period that led to the destruction of the Second Temple.
“It’s difficult to know exactly when these inscriptions were written, but my sense is they were written sometime during the decade or two prior to the fall of Judea to the Romans,” Rollston said in a statement quoted by Newsweek.
The professor explained that these kinds of pottery fragments, whose scientific name is ostraca, could be considered a form of “Post-it notes of antiquity,” since people used them to write short pieces of information.
The specimens that are currently being studied were discovered about 50 years ago in the Levant, but only recent technological developments have allowed researchers to detect the faded inscriptions.
“The ink is carbon-based and was made, in part, using ancient ash. Some of the ink is really clear, but some of it is faded,” Rollston explained. “Multispectral imaging is capable of enhancing the ink so that one can read it more readily. During the past five to 10 years, multispectral imaging has really been front and center in the decipherment of ancient writings made with ink.”