Birch bark was one of the three writing substrates of the ancients, along with palm leaves and papyrus before paper became available. Peeled away from the Himalayan Birch Tree, birch bark is composed of several very thin layers, adhered to one another by pectin, a natural adhesive, as well as physical knots and streaks.
The fatty acids of the original adhesive between the cell walls naturally exude creating a whitish material on the surface. This aging process as well as the lessening of the adhesive strength of the natural pectin serves to undermine the adhesion between the layers. This is the main conservation problem encountered with manuscripts on birch bark. To find a 2000 year old sample is truly remarkable given this inherent instability. The Scroll’s ritualistic internment into a terra cotta jar and placement into a Stupa undoubtedly accounts for its survival at all.