Body Scanner Tech Finds Man Hidden in Roman Art

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Here’s some body scanning news that actually makes me want to raise my arms — and give some high fives. For the first time, art researchers used a TSA-style scanner on a fresco and found something underneath that other techniques had missed.

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J. Bianca Jackson, a postdoctoral researcher based in Paris, and her colleagues specializing in art conservation and restoration decided to study an Italian fresco at the Louvre Museum called ”Trois Hommes Armés de Lances.” The group suspected that it hid images underneath because it had come from Giampietro Campana, a 19th century art collector known for reworking some of the works he acquired.

To start, the researchers tried several techniques that included X-ray radiography, X-ray fluorescence imaging, infrared photography, infrared reflectometry and UV florescence. None of them showed anything unusual. Then they used terahertz spectroscopy, better known as the technology in modern airport body scanners.

“We could not believe our eyes as the image materialized on the screen,” Jackson told the American Chemical Society for their annual meeting this week in New Orleans. Underneath the folds in one of the men’s tunics the scientists saw an eye, a, nose, and a mouth. They think this mystery man was painted in a Roman fresco that dates back thousands of years. He just happened to be in the wall that was later used for the painting in the 1800s.

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Although Jackson and her colleagues in France said they don’t have any idea who this man might be, they are excited about using the technology on other artwork. They plan to use the scanning technique on a Russian religious icon and the walls of an ancient human hut from Turkey next. Perhaps they’ll find amazing ancient images that have just been hiding in the walls all this time.

Photos: The original painting (above) and the scanned version that revealed the hidden man (below). Credits: FastCoExist.com (top) and J. Bianca Jackson and Dominique Martos-Levif via LiveScience.com.

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