The religious world is full of stories and anecdotes kept for centuries in this culture to inspire moral deeds and right actions. Around 800 years ago, one of these tales took place. There was a young soldier in his teens named Laurentius Loricatus who killed a man by accident. The boy felt great remorse for this mistake even in these times of war and retreated in a cave for 34 years. The villagers around his place of penance started a petition to make him officially a saint. The parchment was 16-foot-long and started to develop a purple pattern over the years.
Salt-Loving Microbes Colonized the Ancient Parchment and Left the Purple Pattern behind
The Vatican Secret Archives in Vatican City has been guarding this old scroll within its walls since the 1700s. On the other hand, the inscriptions present on the parchment became illegible. This type of degradation is mostly due to some odd purple spots that usually appear on scrolls made of animal skins like this one.
However, a team of scientists managed to decode the origin of this mysterious purple pattern on an ancient piece of parchment. Ecotoxicologist Luciana Migliore at the University of Rome together with her colleagues had the chance to study the Vatican scroll. After minimally intrusive tests, they concluded that the texture became an ideal habitat to salt-loving marine microbes.
However, the mysteries continued as the document has never been near any sea before. Nonetheless, thanks to the latest advancements in technology, scientists managed to crack this puzzle as well. Therefore, Migliore employed next-generation genetic sequencing to learn more about the identity of the microbes.
Through this innovative method, scientists discovered that halophilic or salt-loving bacteria colonized the scroll. Afterward, microbes that are tolerant to salt such as Gammaproteobacteria took control over the colonies.
Artisants Used to Preserve Their Skin Scrolls by Sinking Them in Sea-Salt Bath
Other tests revealed why all these bacteria were aquatic. For this, scientists went back to the creation of the skin parchment. Artisans used to dip the skins in a sea-salt bath for preservation purposes. The process kills all bacteria except for the salt-loving ones.
As the scroll traveled from one monastery to another changing climate conditions on its way, the salt-loving bacteria started to thrive and create the purple pattern. However, as Loricatus’ scroll has been residing in the Secret Archives of the Vatican for 300 years under ideal conditions, its deterioration process came to a halt.
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