Secrets of a Damaged Biblical scroll Unveiled by Technology

Secrets of a Damaged Biblical scroll Unveiled by Technology

Almost 500 hundred years ago, archaeologists dug up an ancient biblical scroll that they found in the ark of a synagogue on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The carbonized parchment could not even be opened, let alone read. So, back then, they just choose to preserve it and to hope that in the near future, technology will help them reveal the scroll’s secrets.

The future is now

It seems like now is that time as computer scientists at the University of Kentucky managed to perfect such a technology. They used a computer to recreate a digital image of the said scroll. They also had some help from biblical scholars in Jerusalem. The writing that the computer managed to read is in perfect condition, not blackened and charred as the scroll’s exterior. It seems that the text is a fragment identical to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible. It is supposedly 2 000 years old.

This amazing new technique will most probably also work on other severely damaged scrolls. The scroll contains the first two chapters of the Book of Leviticus and has only consonants (like the Hebrew Bible). The Dead Sea scrolls also hold a version similar to those of the Masoretic text. Emanuel Tov, an expert on the Dead Sea scrolls at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says that this discovery is revolutionary. It might represent the earliest version of this form of Medieval text.

A revolutionary discovery

The exact date of this scroll is debatable. The measurements indicate a A.D. 300. But its style makes other scientists believe the date is closer to A.D. 100. W. Brent Seales, a computer scientist made possible this discovery by developing some software programs. Dr. Seales has been working for almost 13 years in the hope of providing a means to read the damaged scrolls. What inspired him to do so were the scrolls found at Herculaneum, near Pompeii. In 2009, he finally succeeded in doing so.

The method used by this software program is called virtual unwrapping. More, all these software programs called Volume Cartography will become available to everyone once the dr.’s government grant ends.

What the scroll is about

The content of the scroll reveals numerous sacrifices that people were making during biblical times at a temple in Jerusalem. Furthermore, this one represents the first manuscript that the scientists managed to read and identify noninvasively. It is said that the Herculaneum charred manuscripts were part of a much larger library. The library existed inside a villa probably owned by Lucius Calpurnius Piso (Julius Caesar’s father-in-law). A great majority of the respective villa has still not been discovered, so chances are that many more valuable scrolls are still in there. With this amazing technique now available, scientists can probably read all the scrolls from that library.

In conclusion, scientists might also come to include this scroll into the Dead Sea manuscripts, if they will eventually discover the exact date. All they know by now is that it contains an ancient text that the Jews used in the land where is now Israel.

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