Researchers Discover an Invisible Dead Sea Scroll Fragment

May 21, 2020 | Megan Gannon
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For the past few years, Dennis Mizzi and a group of other scholars have been tracking down and examining various objects from the Qumran caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Among these objects are fragments of scrolls that appeared to be blank, which the team subjected to high-tech analysis. Megan Gannon explains what they found:

Upon examining a supposedly blank fragment in that collection, Joan Taylor, a researcher at King’s College, London thought she saw faint traces of a lamed—the Hebrew letter “L.” Following this hint, 51 seemingly blank fragments bigger than one centimeter were submitted to be photographed. The library team used multispectral imaging, a technique that captures different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum including some invisible to the naked eye. Taylor, Mizzi, and their third collaborator, Marcello Fidanzio, were surprised when they got the results and saw obvious lines of text on four of the fragments.

“There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa,” Taylor said in a statement announcing the discovery.

“Some words are easily recognizable, like Shabbat,” Mizzi says. That word appears in a fragment with four lines of text, [which] may be related to the biblical book of Ezekiel, Mizzi says. However, he and his colleagues are only beginning to interpret the fragments, and he says it is too early to speculate on their meaning. “We’re still working to figure out the letters that are visible on the fragments,” he says. The team wants to perform further tests to elucidate the physical aspects of the artifacts, including the composition of the ink and the production of the parchment.

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