Illegible words on church headstones could be read once more thanks to a scan technology developed in the US.
Scientists at Carnegie Mellon university are making high resolution 3D scans of tombstones to reveal the carved patterns in the stone.
A computer matches the patterns to a database of signature carvings which reveals the words.
The technique could one day also be used by doctors to examine a patient's tongue for signs of illness.
Scientists often find it difficult to distinguish between natural phenomena and man-made art works carved into stone, due to the build-up of algae and surface dirt.
At the moment, archaeologists are forced to do hand-tracing work with plastic sheets and to examine objects first hand in order to decipher obscured writings.
Scans reveal lost gravestone text