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Scientists discover that 4 “blank” Dead Sea Scrolls actually have text

All praise multispectral imaging–.

The text appears to associate with the Book of Ezekiel.


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Multispectral imaging has revealed hidden text on four Dead Sea Scroll fragments previously believed to be blank.

Enlarge/ Multispectral imaging has exposed concealed text on 4 Dead Sea Scroll fragments formerly believed to be blank.

University of Manchester

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The 16 supposed fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Museum of the Bible may be fakes, however at least 4 such fragments housed at the University of Manchester in the UK are the genuine deal For years, those pieces were presumed to be blank, however a new analysis has actually exposed the existence of real text, more than likely a passage from the book of Ezekiel.

These ancient Hebrew texts– approximately 900 complete and partial scrolls in all, kept in clay jars– were first discovered scattered in different caves near what was as soon as the settlement of Qumran, simply north of the Dead Sea, by Bedouin shepherds in 1946-1947 Qumran was ruined by the Romans, circa 73 CE, and historians believe the scrolls were concealed in the caves by a sect called the Essenes to safeguard them from being ruined.

The scrolls are understandably of terrific historical and historical interest. Numerous of the parchments have been carbon dated, and synchrotron radiation, among other methods, has actually been utilized to clarify the homes of the ink used for the text.

A thorough set of imaging methods were utilized to identify that the Museum of the Bible fragments were forgeries. In 2018, an Israeli scientist named Oren Ableman used an infrared microscopic lense connected to a computer to determine and decipher Dead Sea Scroll fragments kept in a cigar box since the 1950 s. (Among the pieces might not be credited to any of the known manuscripts, and hence may represent a still unknown manuscript.)

Last year we reported on a study of the almost 25- foot-long Temple Scroll, among the best preserved of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The text appears to cover some version of product found in the Scriptural books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, including plans for a Jewish temple, and rules concerning temple practices and sacrificial offerings. That research study concluded that the parchment has an uncommon finishing of sulfate salts (consisting of sulfur, salt, plaster, and calcium), which may be one reason the scrolls were so unspoiled.

In 2016, a global group of researchers established a technique for “virtually unrolling” a badly damaged ancient scroll found on the western coast of the Dead Sea, exposing the first few verses from the book of Leviticus. The so-called En Gedi scroll was recovered from the ark of an ancient synagogue destroyed by fire around 600 CE.

And in 2019, we reported that German researchers used a combination of innovative physics techniques to virtually “unfold” an ancient Egyptian papyrus, part of a substantial collection housed in the Berlin Egyptian Museum. Their analysis exposed that a relatively blank spot on the papyrus in fact included characters written in what had ended up being “undetectable ink” after centuries of exposure to light.

  • Naked eye view of a scroll fragment (left). Multispectral imaging of the exact same scroll piece (right).


    University of Manchester

  • Joan Taylor taking a look at the Dead Sea Scrolls pieces in the John Rylands Library Reading Room.


    University of Manchester

The Manchester fragments never ever entered the antiquities market, where many forgeries originated. After being discovered during the excavations of the Qumran caves, the fragments were provided to the Kingdom of Jordan in the 1950 s by a leather expert at the University of Leeds named Ronald Reed. He did so in exchange for authorization to study them, because they were presumed to be blank. They remained in long-lasting storage up until 1997, when the collection was donated to the university. It was while analyzing them as part of the new research study that Joan Taylor of King’s College London discovered a striking information.

” Looking at among the fragments with a magnifying glass, I believed I saw a small, faded letter– a lamed, the Hebrew letter ‘L,'” said Taylor “Frankly, since all these fragments were supposed to be blank and had actually even been cut into for leather studies, I also thought I might be imagining things. Then it seemed perhaps other pieces might have extremely faded letters, too.”

Intrigued, Taylor photographed the front and back of all the blank fragments over one centimeter–51 in all– using multispectral imaging (MSI), a technique that is being used more regularly in archaeology because it can expose covert products, pigments, and inks that would be unnoticeable to the naked eye. As Sarah Bond noted at Forbes in 2017, “ MSI can take three visible images in blue, green and red and integrate them with an infrared image and an X-ray image of an item in order to reveal minute tips of pigment. It can even expose concealed illustrations, discolorations or works underneath numerous layers of paint or gunk.”

4 of the 51 pieces so analyzed had actually legible text written in carbon-based ink, along with parts of characters and ruled lines. ” With brand-new techniques for revealing ancient texts now available, I felt we needed to know if these letters could be exposed,” stated Taylor “There are just a couple of on each piece, however they resemble missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you discover under a sofa.”

Taylor found that one piece in specific showed the remnants of 4 lines of text, including about 15 letters. Just one word, Shabbat(Sabbath), was readable, but based on her analysis, she believes the text connects to the passages in Ezekiel 46:1 -3. The team’s analysis of the fragments is ongoing, and a report on their results will be released later. In the meantime, the University of Manchester has the distinction of real estate the only validated Dead Sea Scrolls in the UK.

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