Archaeology & History
'Blank' Dead Sea Scrolls actually do contain text
By T.K. Randall
May 16, 2020 · 2 comments
One of the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Image Credit: Effi Schweizer
New research has determined that scroll fragments thought to be blank do in fact contain very faint text.
Considered to be some of the most important ancient texts ever discovered, the Dead Sea Scrolls are comprised of several hundred documents dating back more than 2,000 years.
They were found inside eleven caves in the eastern Judaean Desert between 1946 and 1956.
Today, the fragments - which number in excess of 100,000 - can be found in collections and museums around the world including the University of Manchester's John Rylands Library which is home to four particularly notable scroll fragments that, until recently, were thought to be completely blank.
According to a new study however, there is more to these fragments than meets the eye.
"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.
"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."
A detailed examination of the fragments later confirmed the presence of text written in Hebrew and Aramaic, with one piece in particular exhibiting four lines of text with 15-16 letters on each.
Ruled lines and traces of other letters were found on the other parchments.
"With new techniques for revealing ancient texts now available, I felt we had to know if these letters could be exposed," said Taylor. "There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa."
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