Ancient texts, collectively known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, were discovered in the middle of the last century, by Bedouin shepherds. They are very precious objects in regards to cultural heritage and some of the best preserved materials found. Most of them were written in animal skin based material that can be described approximately as a parchment hybrid. But now, a study by researchers at MIT and other research centers has shed light on a unique ancient technology of parchment manufacturing and provides potentially new information on methods to better preserve these valuable historical documents.
The study, published in 'Science Advances', focused on a particular scroll, known as the Temple Scroll, among the approximately 900 full or partial scrolls found in the years after that first discovery. The Temple Scroll is one of the largest (almost 7 and a half meters long) and best preserved, although its material is the thinnest of all (one tenth of a millimeter thick). It also has the clearest and whitest writing surface of all scrolls.
The results of that study, conducted with former graduate student Roman Schuetz (now at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel), MIT graduate student Janille Maragh, among others, discover that the scroll was processed in an unusual way , using a mixture of salts found in the evaporites, the material that remained from the evaporation of the brines, but which was different from the typical composition found in other scrolls. "The Temple Scroll is probably the most beautiful and best preserved parchment," says Masic. "We had the privilege of studying fragments of the Israeli museum in Jerusalem called" Shrine of the Book, "which was built specifically to house the Dead Sea Scrolls. ".
Hidden in eleven caves
It is known that in the case of the scrolls of the Middle Ages, chalk and pumice powder was applied to the side of the meat to help clean and dry the skin without hair, although this was not the case with these. In the case of the extremely thin scrolls of the Dead Sea Scrolls collection that served as a writing surface for phylacteries, the production involved the division of hairless skin into two parts, the division of grain.
The scrolls were placed in jars and hidden in eleven caves on the steep slopes north of the Dead Sea, in the region around the ancient Qumran settlement, which was destroyed by the Romans about 2,000 years ago.
A unique old manufacturing technology
The study's authors point to "a unique ancient manufacturing technology" in which this parchment was modified by adding an inorganic layer as a writing surface.
On the other hand, the understanding of the minerals used becomes very important in "the development of conservation methods suitable for the preservation of these valuable historical documents," the experts add. These conclusions solve why the document is so different and has managed to survive in better conditions, unlike the others.
But what are the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The Dead Sea Manuscripts, also called Qumran manuscripts (because they are found in caves located in Qumran) are a collection of more than 900 manuscripts, most of them between the third century before Christ and the first century after Christ. Much of these manuscripts are written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and some of them are in Greek.
These manuscripts include the oldest testimony of the biblical text found to date. Another part is books not included in the canon of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
Today, most of them are divided into the Israel Museum, the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem or the Archaeological Museum in Jordan. Also in the National Library of France or in the Schøyen Collection in Norway.
. (tagsToTranslate) archeology