Champollion has discovered an Egyptian papyrus that reveals new secrets thanks to X-rays from the Grenoble synchrotron

Fragments of papyrus unearthed by the famous Egyptologist have been analyzed by a team of researchers in physics. Thanks to the synchrotron’s super-powerful X-rays, they were able to unravel its mysteries, without damaging the samples.

He was the first to reveal the secret of hieroglyphs, in 1822, thanks to patience.
Two centuries after Jean-François Champollion’s discovery, technology is still working to unravel the mysteries of ancient Egypt.

Thanks to the super powerful X-rays, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), based in Grenoble (Isère), has recently led to new discoveries in papyri kept since 2017 in the House of Champollion.

France 3 Alpes / G. Ragris / F. Céroni / T. Huynh

Papyri rays

It is a civilization born more than 5,000 years ago. However, even today the pharaohs and goddesses still arouse the curiosity of scholars. Such is the case of Pierre-Olivier Hautran, a young researcher in physics and author of a recently published article in the Very Serious Review. Scientific reports. He studied the structure of papyri.

Thanks to the X-ray Synchrotron, which contains a particle accelerator ten times more powerful than a conventional X-ray, He was able to decipher its mysteries, without damaging the fragments kept by the Musée de Champollion. “We succeed in finding the recipe that was used at that time, the composition of these pigments, there are several colors for the Egyptian painting,” The researcher explains.

His recently published dissertation also sheds light on the making of these papyri. It will consist of three layers, and probably the work of several scribes. “We notice the successive overlay of the preparatory drawing, then with different colors and at the end of the carbon black line which allows highlighting the beauty of these parts”, More details by Pierre-Olivier Autrane.

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Papyri being analyzed at the Grenoble Synchrotron (France 3Alpes)

Champollion House

More than 2,000 years later, we know more about these papyri that Champollion brought back during his only field research expedition, a campaign that greatly helped him decipher hieroglyphs. “Through this study we have the impression that we are reproducing the papyri and learning more about the work of Jean-François Champollion. It is a body of data that makes it possible today to restore this collection to the public,” Caroline Dugand, curator of the Musée du Champollion, rejoices.

These papyri dating back to the Ptolemaic period (323 to 30 BC), from the house of Champollion, in Vif in Isère. The museum, located on the Champollions family estate, displays reconstructed spaces, personal objects, and work notes that plunge the visitor into the intellectual frenzy of the early nineteenth century.

The site is also a reference in the field of Egyptology. In 2017, he received fragments of papyrus used by the famous Egyptologist. “It was precisely in this envelope that bore this inscription ‘Egyptian papyri found in the belongings of your grandfather,’” More coordinator reports.

Launching a new research program for the next four years. will allow Develop the work of restorers and learn more about this sacred writing from ancient Egypt.

Champollion Museum Presented until October 30, 2023 is the exhibition “Disjointed Site”, which traces the work of the Champollion brothers.

Opens Every day from 10 am to 6 pm except May 1.
Closed from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm


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