An ancient Greek papyrus with mirror writing on both sides which had baffled researchers for almost half a millennia has finally been decoded.
The 2,000-year-old document puzzled generations of researchers since it arrived in Basel in the 1500s, as part of 16th century lawyer Basilius Amerbach’s art collection.
Scans using ultraviolet and infrared images finally proved the key, revealing that it wasn’t a single papyrus at all, but several layers glued together.
A specialist papyrus researcher separated the sheets – and found that it was an ancient medical treatise.
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Sabine Huebner, Professor of Ancient History at the University of Basel said: ‘This is a sensational discovery.
‘The majority of papyri are documents such as letters, contracts and receipts. This is a literary text, however, and they are vastly more valuable.’
‘We can now say that it’s a medical text from late antiquity that describes the phenomenon of ‘hysterical apnea’’.
‘We therefore assume that it is either a text from the Roman physician Galen, or an unknown commentary on his work.’