Previously unnoticed writing on fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been revealed through the use of high-resolution imaging technology originally developed for NASA.
The scrolls from the Qumran Cave, also known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, were discovered in the caves of the Judean Desert by local Bedouins not long before the declaration of the State of Israel more than 70 years ago and are considered one of the most important Jewish archaeological finds. When a researcher heard about the discovery, he rushed to buy the scrolls. Upon examination, they were determined to bear ancient Hebrew manuscripts giving a glimpse into life during the second Temple period, are of immense historical and religious value.
To this day, many of the scrolls and scroll fragments have been left untouched due to their fragile condition and the need for specialist tools. One of the passages revealed and deciphered, written in early Hebrew, hints at the existence of a scroll never found and still unknown to researchers.
Among the exposed sections is a text of a Temple Scroll dealing with the laws of worship and proper temple service; a text that belongs to the Great Book of Psalms; and an additional manuscript hitherto unknown to researchers. It is this last manuscript which has elicited most excitement.
The manuscripts from the Judean Desert have served as proof of the great level of precision with which the Hebrew Bible has been preserved for hundreds and thousands of years. In addition to a large number of ancient manuscripts of the canonized bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls also contain manuscripts of other Bible-related literature and second-temple period Jewish customs. At least some of the manuscripts have been attributed to a Judean Desert sect of Judaism that had varying customs for practicing Judaism.
Scholars have argued that the scrolls were the product of Jews living in Jerusalem, who hid the scrolls in the caves near Qumran while fleeing from the Romans during the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE. Some have suggested that the Dead Sea Scrolls may even have been originally housed at the library of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
Around 40% of the scrolls are copies of texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, and approximately another 30% are texts from the Second Temple Period which ultimately were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc.
In February 2017, Hebrew University archaeologists announced the discovery of a new, 12th cave. Although one blank parchment was found in a jar, broken and empty scroll jars and pickaxes suggest that the cave was looted in the 1950s.
Decades after their discovery, the Qumran scrolls continue to surprise, stir and reveal new information. What hidden secrets will come to light in the future?