Science devises new method to sort Dead Sea Scrolls (Feature)
By Jean-Baptiste Piggin Nov 15, 2010, 1:06 GMT
Berlin - Physicists are on the verge of more breakthrough discoveries about the Dead Sea Scrolls, a stock of 2,000-year-old religious documents found in the West Bank desert, a Berlin science institute says.
From 1947 to 1956, an estimated 900 distinct documents were recovered by Bedouins and archaeologists from 11 caves near Qumran, a ruined settlement at the north-west corner of the Dead Sea.
The documents contain several books of the Bible, making them of vital interest to Jews, Christians and Muslims. All three religions are rooted in ancient Jewish doctrines. Unproved conspiracy theories have swirled round the scrolls for 60 years.
Some of the parchment scrolls were found intact, but many of the 17,000 torn fragments have been difficult to piece together.
To date, scholars have used a jig-saw-puzzle method, trying to match adjacent pieces by the words and style of script.
This week, Berlin scientists are to brief scholars on 21st century methods of sorting the fragments, which contain Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic writing and are kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
The new methods, which include shining X-rays through the parchment and papyrus, are guaranteed not to damage them.
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