Dead Sea Scrolls

Dead Sea Scrolls discovery: Fragments thought to be blank reveal text

Four Dead Sea Scroll fragments long thought to be blank have revealed their text. The fragments, which are housed at the University of Manchester in the U.K., shed more light on the famous scrolls. Some 51 fragments were imaged front and back, with six identified for further investigation. Of these, four were found to have readable Hebrew/Aramaic text written in carbon-based ink. “The most substantial fragment has the remains of four lines of text with 15-16 letters, most of which are only partially preserved, but the word Shabbat (Sabbath) can be clearly read,” explained the University of Manchester in a statement. The text may be related to the biblical book of Ezekiel (46:1-3), it added. “One piece with text is the edge of a parchment scroll section, with sewn thread, and the first letters of two lines of text may be seen to the left of this binding,” the university said in the statement. The fragments were studied at King’s College London. “Looking at one of the fragments with a magnifying glass, I thought I saw a small, faded letter – a lamed, the Hebrew letter ‘L’,” said Professor Joan Taylor of King’s College London, in the statement. “Frankly, since all these fragments were supposed to be blank and had even been cut into for leather studies, I also thought I might be imagining things. But then it seemed maybe other fragments could have very faded letters too.” “With new techniques for revealing ancient texts now available, I felt we had to know if these letters could be exposed,” Taylor added. “There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa.” Experts from the Faculty of Theology of Lugano in Switzerland and the University of Malta also participated in the study. The first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1946 and 1947 in the Qumran caves in the Judean desert. Further scrolls were found in subsequent years, up to 1956. In total, 1,000 ancient religious manuscripts were discovered. The delicate fragments of parchment and papyrus were preserved for 2,000 years thanks to the dark, dry conditions in the caves. The fragments held in the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library were given in the 1950s by the Jordanian government to Ronald Reed, a leather expert at the U.K.’s University of Leeds. “It was assumed that the pieces were ideal for scientific tests, as they were blank and relatively worthless,” explained the University of Manchester, in its statement. “These were studied and published by Reed and his student John Poole, and then stored safely away.” The collection was donated to the University of Manchester in 1997. The Dead Sea Scrolls continue to be a source of fascination. In 2018, for example, experts in Israel harnessed sophisticated imaging technology to reveal hidden script in some of the scrolls. The technology, which was originally developed for NASA, identified new letters and words, giving experts fresh insight into the historic texts. One of the fragments may even indicate the existence of a previously unknown manuscript, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which conducted the research. Also in 2018, researchers at Israel’s University of Haifa translated one of the last two parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Scrolls in the collection of the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. have also been in the spotlight in recent years. Research revealed the scrolls to be fake.

Fascinating!!     🙂

Dead Sea Scrolls discovery: Obscure fragments deciphered

One of the last two parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls has finally been translated, thanks to researchers at the University of Haifa. Dr. Eshbal Ratson and Prof. Jonathan Ben-Dov of the Department of Bible Studies managed to put together 60 tiny fragments over more than a year, obtaining fresh insight into a festival that marked the changing of the seasons. First discovered in a cave in Qumran in 1947, there are 900 scrolls which make up the Dead Sea Scrolls; together, the collection is considered to be the oldest copy of the Bible in known existence, thought to have been created around the 4th century B.C. The majority of the scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956, and have since been restored and published. Also included in the newly discovered fragment is a part that deals with the 364-day calendar, celebrated by the ancient Judean Desert sect. It’s unclear who created the Dead Sea Scrolls, but some researchers have suggested a group known as the Essenes are responsible. The Essenes existed from the 2nd century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. The festivals that were used to celebrate the changing of seasons include the festival of New Wheat, New Wine and New Oil, related to the Jewish festival of Shavuot. According to the calendar, the wheat festival took place 50 days after the Shabbat that followed Passover. Fifty days later, the wine harvest festival came and 50 days after that was the oil harvest festival. The scroll also said there was a special day for the changing of the seasons, known as Tekufah, which in Hebrew translates to “period.” “This term is familiar from the later Rabbinical literature and from mosaics dating to the Talmudic period, and we could have assumed that it would also be used with this meaning in the scrolls, but this is the first time it has been revealed,” Dr. Ratson and Prof. Ben-Dov explained in a press release. “The lunar calendar, which Judaism follows to this day, requires a large number of human decisions,” the researchers added. “People must look at the stars and moon and report on their observations, and someone must be empowered to decide on the new month and the application of leap years. By contrast, the 364-day calendar was perfect. Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day,” they wrote. Interestingly enough, Dr. Ratson and Prof. Ben-Dov were able to decipher the code from annotations made in the margins, by correcting omissions from the original author. “What’s nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle — they showed me how to assemble the scroll,” Dr. Ratzon said in an interview with Haaretz.

Fascinating!!   🙂

12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave discovered in Israel

Researchers have discovered a new cave in Israel that they say once held Dead Sea Scrolls, making it just the 12th such cave of its kind found. The find is thus a milestone, according to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The cave was looted long before the archeologists excavated it, but inside they found telltale signs that scrolls had been there: broken storage jars and lids on its edges and in a tunnel in the back. “This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation, said in a statement. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen.” Archaeologists also found a string that would have tied the scrolls, as well as pottery, flint blades, and arrowheads. “The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more,” Gutfeld added. A professor and students from Liberty University in Virginia also helped with the research. The team also found the iron remnants of pickaxes in the cave. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that it was looted by Bedouins in the 1950s. “The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in the statement. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain.”

Fascinating!!   🙂