Archaeometry of the Dead Sea Scrolls

in Dead Sea Discoveries
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Abstract

For many years after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, text analysis and fragment attribution were the main concern of the scholars dealing with them. The uncertain archaeological provenance of a large part of the collection added an additional difficulty to the formidable task of sorting thousands of fragments. After sixty years of scholarly research, the questions of origin, archaeological provenance, and correct attribution of the fragments are still debated. In many cases, material characterization of the scroll writing media delivers answers to these questions.

Physical and chemical examination of the skin-based material of the Dead Sea Scrolls started shortly after their discovery. Subsequent studies dedicated to long-term preservation resulted in a respectable body of knowledge about this material, in many ways very different from medieval parchment.

A new multi-instrumental approach, developed for an accurate characterization of the highly inhomogeneous “parchment” of the Dead Sea Scrolls, might lead to a reliable reconstruction of their history. This approach is illustrated by the case studies, in which we discuss the specific questions of origin (1QHa), archaeological provenance (11QTa), and post-discovery interventions (1QapGen ar).

Archaeometry of the Dead Sea Scrolls

in Dead Sea Discoveries

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References

1

D. Burton J. B. Poole and R. Reed“A New Approach to the Dating of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” Nature 184 (1959): 533–34; R. Reed and J. B. Poole “A Study of Some Dead Sea Scroll and Leather Fragments from Cave 4 at Qumran: Physical Examination” Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 9 (1962): 1–13; R. Reed and J. B. Poole “A Study of Some Dead Sea Scroll and Leather Fragments from Cave 4 at Qumran: Chemical Examination” Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 9 (1964): 171–82.

4

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W. S. GinellReport on the Dead Sea Scrolls (Marina del Rey, Calif.: The Getty Conservation Institute1993).

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8

I. Rabin and O. Hahn“Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibitions around the World: Reasons for Concern,” Restaurator 33 (2012): 101–21.

9

G. Brooke“The Historical Documents at the John Rylands University Library: The Reed Dead Sea Scrolls Collection,” e-Preservation Science 3 (2006): 35–40; I. Rabin G. Brooke J. Hodgson E. Pantos and J. Prag “The Ronald Reed Archive at the John Rylands University Library” e-Preservation Science 4 (2007): 9–12.

11

E. Tov“The Sciences and the Reconstruction of the Ancient Scrolls: Possibilities and Impossibilities,” in The Dead Sea Scrolls in Context: Integrating the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Study of Ancient Texts Languages and Cultures (ed. A. Lange, E. Tov, M. Weigold, and B. H. Reynolds III; Leiden: Brill2011) 3–25.

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R. ReedAncient Skins Parchments and Leathers (New York: Seminar1972) 46–85.

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23

Reprinted from Rabin et al.“Characterization of the Writing Media of the Dead Sea Scrolls” 129.

24

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27

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Figures

  • View in gallery
    Elemental mapping of a portion of a fragment from the Qumran Cave 4 performed by fast X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanner.
  • View in gallery
    Cl/Br weight distribution as a function of the discovery site.
  • View in gallery
    Neighbouring areas on a fragment from Qumran Cave 4: a) optical micrograph; b) X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) line scan indicated by the arrow on the micrograph; c) Scanning Electron Micrograph (SEM) with the corresponding Energy-Dispersive X-ray spectra (EDX).23
  • View in gallery
    Raman spectra of Temple Scroll fragments and of the sediments from the Qumran Cave 11.
  • View in gallery
    “Salt effect” in the Genesis Apocryphon scroll; top left: infrared image of the sample; top right: Cl profiles extracted from XRF spectra; bottom left: SE micrograph of the surface portion corresponding to the outlier at 2000 μm; bottom right: EDX spectrum of the surface portion on the left.
  • View in gallery
    Ink measurements on the 1QHa scroll; a) colour and IR image of the fragment 52; b) FTIR spectrum; c) micrograph and XRF line scan.
  • View in gallery
    Map of the Find-sites of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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