Archaeologists wanted to uncover the age of a wine container from a city in northern Spain, originally the ancient Roman city Iesso. That would allow them to date the city’s foundation. The problem was, they needed to read painted names of Roman consuls.
And one of those names had vanished due to age and light damage. So archaeologists called in the help of the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona. Current photonic-archaeology techniques would either damage the paint or not distinguish it from pottery pigment. So researchers there developed a new technique. They decided to focus on the fluorescent qualities of the paint’s binding agent. High energy photons that would usually make the binder fluoresce could destroy remaining visible paint. So scientists relied on low-energy photons typically used in biological imaging. These results had to then go through another few imaging processes to uncover the invisible writing. Still, only the faintest tracings of letters appeared. Archaeologists could just make out the name Lucius Opimius—which was indeed one of the most likely choices. The taste of the wine? Still a mystery.