Locally Made: The Dead Sea Scrolls

Source: Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics

Source: Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics

Discovery News reports that researchers who probed tiny fragments of a Dead Sea Scroll with protons found its chemistry matches that of the water in the area where the ancient document was found:

Proton beams have shed new light on the origin of the longest of the Dead Sea scrolls, suggesting its parchment was manufactured locally.

According to a study carried out at the labs of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) in Catania, Sicily, the 28-foot-long Temple Scroll was made in Qumran, in what is now Israel, in the same area on the Dead Sea coast where the faded parchments were found hidden in caves half a century ago.

The scrolls, a collection of about 900 highly fragmented documents, are considered one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th century. They include the earliest written texts of the Bible and are nearly 2,300 years old. In addition to the biblical texts, the scrolls are filled with apocryphal material and sectarian writings, dating back to between 100-200 B.C. to 70 A.D.

Written as though God, himself, is speaking, the Temple Scroll contains detailed instructions on the building of a temple and dictates how laws are to be communicated to the people.

“We selected the fragments from the Temple Scroll because they were the cleanest, and would make our analysis easier,” INFN physicist Giuseppe Pappalardo said.

Pappalardo and colleagues analyzed seven centimeter-sized fragments of the scroll using a new portable technique called “XPIXE” — X-ray and Particle Induced X-ray emission — and a particle accelerator.

“Basically, we concentrated on water. Like most of the other parchments, the Temple Scroll was made from animal skin, thus its production required extensive washing. Our goal was to compare and possibly find a match between the chemistry of the scroll and the very peculiar chemistry of the water from the area where the parchments were found,” Pappalardo, who developed the XPIXE technology, told Discovery News…

[continues at Discovery News]

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    “in what is now Israel” – Interesting comment considering that it was called back Israel then too during the existence of the Qumran community (as per the independent kingdom established by the Hasmoneans who ruled the area and then the client kingdom to Rome).

  • Synapse

    “in what is now Israel” – Interesting comment considering that it was called back Israel then too during the existence of the Qumran community (as per the independent kingdom established by the Hasmoneans who ruled the area and then the client kingdom to Rome).