Of all the ancient parchment texts that have been discovered in the caves of Qumran, one, known to researchers as the Temple Scroll, has withstood the ravages of time to an exceptional extent. A recent scientific study may explain how, as Luke Tress writes:
[Most of the] scrolls were written on animal skins that had been stripped of hair [and] thinned. But unlike [the others], the Temple Scroll had an added layer of inorganic material, essentially finishing the process. Today, the scroll stands out from the rest in the Israel Museum’s collection because of its thinness and bright ivory color, which is in stark contrast to the dark hue of most of the other scrolls, due to the tanning processes used in their production.
According to the researchers, the Temple Scroll has a multilayered structure, with the text written on an ivory-colored inorganic layer, mostly made up of salts, on the inner side of the skin—[while] most of the [other] scrolls have writing on the side of the skin that once had the animal’s hair. The finding suggests “a unique ancient production technology in which the parchment was modified through the addition of the inorganic layer as a writing surface,” the researchers write.
While the team cannot say definitively where most of the minerals came from, they have determined that the salts did not originate in the caves and are not common in the Dead Sea region.
Therefore, they conclude, it is likely that this scroll was produced outside of the Land of Israel, perhaps elsewhere in the Mediterranean.