If you like jigsaws then why not try shreds 1

Posted by Ed Thu, 08 Feb 2007 10:51:00 GMT

I once heard a paleontologist boast about how she liked to do jigsaws in her spare time. Not normal jigsaws mind you – her spatial abilities being so superior – she liked to do her jigsaws with the pieces upside down, picture facing down.

If you like the idea of such challenge then consider this piece in which Robert Fisk (from his book The Great War for Civilisation) recounts a woman’s report of how in 1979 a young Iranian called Javad started reconstructing shredded documents recovered from the sacked US embassy:

He was a study in concentration: bearded, thin, nervous and intense. These qualities, combined with his strong command of English, his mathematical mind and his enthusiasm, made him a natural for the job …

One afternoon he took a handful of shreds from the barrel, laid them on a sheet of white paper and began grouping them on the basis of their qualities … After five hours we had been able to reconstruct 20-30 per cent of the two documents.

The next day I visited the document centre with a group of sisters. ‘Come and see. With God’s help, with faith and a bit of effort we can accomplish the impossible’ he said, with a smile.

Fisk goes on:

A team of twenty students was gathered to work on the papers. A flat board was fitted with elastic bands to hold the shreds in place. They could reconstruct five to ten documents a week.

They were carpet weavers, carefully, almost lovingly re-threading their tapestry. Iranian carpets are filled with flowers and birds, the recreation of a garden in the desert; they are intended to give life amid sand and heat, to create eternal meadows amid a wasteland.

The Iranians who worked for months on those shredded papers were creating their own unique carpet, one that exposed the past and was transformed into a living history book amid the arid propaganda of the revolution.

High-school students and disabled war veterns were enlisted to work on this carpet of papers.

It would take them six years to complete, three thousand pages containing 2,300 documents, all eventually contained in 85 volumes.