Researchers decipher ancient Dead Sea Scrolls with help of advanced imaging

By Brooks Hays  |  May 2, 2018 at 11:38 AM
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May 2 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have used advanced imaging technology to decipher previously unrecognizable fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, documents written some 2,000 years ago.

The breakthrough was announced Tuesday evening in Jerusalem at a press conference to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the scrolls' discovery.

Archeologists began excavating the Dead Sea Scrolls from the Qumran Caves of the West Bank's Judaean Desert in 1948. The thousands of fragments from thousands of different manuscripts, most written in Hebrew, were organized as they were collected, but many of the parchment and papyrus scraps were indecipherable and were piled into a cigar box where they've been hiding for the last seven decades.

Doctoral student Oren Ableman discovered the scroll fragments while sorting through museum boxes as part of a maintenance and cataloguing project organized by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"I do feel honored to be part of it. Sometimes I feel like, I'm just a PhD student and I'm finding these discoveries," Abelman told The Times of Israel. "It's exciting."

Thanks to advanced imaging technology -- technology originally designed at NASA -- scientists have for the first time been able to make sense of some of those cigar box scrolls, reveling bits of ink and fragments of recognizable script.

As a result, researchers were able to identify some of the text on fragments that look blank to the naked eye. Some of the fragments have been matched to the Books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Jubilees, as well as the Great Psalms Scroll. Another fragment has been linked to the manuscript known as the "Temple Scroll."

One of the fragments features an ancient Hebrew script that researchers have never seen before. The unusual text could point to the existence of an unidentified manuscript.

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