The Archimedes Palimpsest

Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes

"And we see, throughout, hints of someone standing triumphant at the borders of the ancient world, peering at us through accumulated catastrophes and layers of destruction, and surviving — just like the hero of any good thriller."

The New York Times

LOST for centuries. FOUND by the Walters Art Museum. Discover how an international team of experts resurrected the hidden manuscript of the ancient world's greatest thinker, Archimedes of Syracuse. Exhibition runs Oct.16-Jan.1.

In Jerusalem in 1229 AD the greatest works of the Greek mathematician Archimedes were erased and overwritten with a prayer book by a priest called Johannes Myronas. In the year 2000 a project was begun by a team of experts at the Walters Art Museum to read these erased texts. By the time they had finished, the team that worked on the book had recovered Archimedes' secrets, rewritten the history of mathematics and discovered entirely new texts from the ancient world. This exhibition will tell that famous story. It will recount the history of the book, detail the patient conservation, explain the cutting-edge imaging and highlight the discoveries of the dogged and determined scholars who finally read what had been obliterated.

The exhibition Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes will conclude with two galleries that ask "What will we discover next?" In six interactive learning stations, conservation staff will present artworks from the Walters' collection to illustrate the very real questions that start the process of learning and discovery through research. For example, you will be invited to consider why a Kentucky Long rifle is associated with a pastoral 19th-century drawing by Rosa Bonheur, to explore what Ethiopian painting and manuscript illustration have to do with colorful minerals on display, and to ponder how silver preservation could be revolutionized by recent advances in nanotechnology.

This exhibition has been generously supported by an anonymous donor and by leadership gifts from the Selz Foundation and the Stockman Family Foundation.

The Archimedes Palimpsest is a manuscript of extraordinary importance to the history of science. This thirteenth century prayer book contains erased texts that were written several centuries earlier. These erased texts include two treatises by Archimedes that can be found nowhere else, The Method and Stomachion .

The manuscript sold at auction to a private collector on the 29th October 1998. The owner deposited the manuscript at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, a few months later. Since that date the manuscript has been the subject of conservation, imaging and scholarship, in order to better read the texts. The Archimedes Palimpsest project, as it is called, has shed new light on Archimedes and revealed new texts from the ancient world. It has also generated a great deal of public curiosity, as well as the interest of scholars throughout the world.

On 29th October 2008, we celebrated the ten year anniversary of the project. What was erased text, in terrible condition, impossible to access, and yet foundational to the history and science of the West, is now legible, and instantly available for free by clicking HERE.


Archimedes was born in the city of Syracuse on the island of Sicily in 287 BC. He was the son of an astronomer and mathematician named Phidias.

All images of the palimpsest are the copyright of the owner of the Archimedes Palimpsest, unless explicitly stated otherwise. All rights reserved.

Photography and Video Footage by John Dean Photography . Site hosted by Bark @ The Moon Studio