3D Scans Used To Unwrap Ancient Scroll

According to Segal, the text in the Ein Gedi Scroll is identical to the traditional Masoratic text, meaning it hasn't changed in almost 2,000 years. The text is an early Hebrew text, as evidenced by its lack of vowels. They were then methodically analyzed in conjunction with Israel Antiquities Authority expert Pnina Shor and her team.

Researchers hope to use the technology to peek inside other ancient documents too fragile to unwrap, like some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and papyrus scrolls carbonized in the Mt. Vesuvius volcano eruption in 79 CE.

University of Kentucky researchers believe the scanning technology will help unlock ink-based writings in documents that are damaged or delicate.

According to Dr. Sefi Porath, discoverer of the scroll in the 1970 Ein Gedi excavations "The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting". Risky because even gently moving the scroll to and away from the imaging machine risked crumbling and destroying the document. Finally, they virtually "unrolled" the scroll to reveal the writing inside.

The scroll was discovered in 1970 in a Jewish village called En-Gedi, which was destroyed by fire around 600. The Masoretic text is considered the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible, and is one of the texts most often used for Protestant translations of the Old Testament.

"I looked at him and said, 'you must be joking, '" said Shor, who heads the lab.

The feat of recovering the text was made possible by software programs developed by W. Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky.

"We're reading a real scroll", Seales, chair of the university's computer science department, said at a news conference Tuesday, according to Live Science. They then looked for any pixels that looked like ink made with iron or lead. "The consistency of the text shows that we have an unbroken chain, the end result being present day Judaism", Storchan told Breaking Israel News. "At that point we were absolutely jubilant".

"We know now that the scroll from En-Gedi is biblical".

In the final step, the experts digitally flattened the texts in the scroll and merged the different layers together into one.

"This is quite wonderful for us".

Apparently, the text has not changed in 2,000 years. Keeping that in mind, scientists claim that other biblical manuscripts from Torah are called Dead Sea Scrolls.

The virtual discovery offers hope for the restoration of damaged historical texts now preserved in archives all over the world that have yet to be studied.

Isn't it awesome how scientists nowadays manage to read things off a burnt piece of paper dating back to 3rd century?

For over forty years, archaeologists have longed to peek inside a badly damaged ancient scroll found on the western shore of the Dead Sea. But these were burnt and crushed and generally in bad shape, so were kept as-is by the Israel Antiquities Authority for four decades.

Digital manipulation adjusted the virtual scroll's texture and flattened it so the text was legible.

On one stretch they could read 35 lines, all from the Book of Leviticus. "Much of the text is as close to readable as actual unharmed Dead Sea Scrolls".

The En-Gedi scroll, which dates back to 600AD, is the oldest Pentateuchal scroll in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The scroll's age places it between the older Dead Sea Scrolls and the more recent texts found in the Cairo Geniza, meaning that "the Ein Gedi Scroll bridges a centuries-wide gap in the history of biblical text", National Geographic wrote.

  • Carolyn Briggs