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Letters invisible to naked eye discovered on Dead Sea Scrolls

May 1, 2018
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Technology originally developed for NASA has revealed letters invisible to the naked eye on fragments of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, officials announced Tuesday.

The scrolls were discovered in the 1950s by archaeologists and Bedouin in caves near Qumran — on the West Bank near the Dead Sea — and include tens of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments that are thought to belong to approximately 1,000 different manuscripts.

Letters invisible to naked eye discovered on Dead Sea ScrollsLetters invisible to naked eye discovered on Dead Sea Scrolls

The Israel Antiquities Authority said examinations of some fragments that had not previously been sorted or deciphered due to their “small size and precarious physical state” uncovered new script and pointed to the existence of an unknown manuscript.

Image: Dead Sea Scrolls
One of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments is examined at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s lab.Shai Halevi/The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

As part of a project to digitize the scrolls, researcher Oren Ableman examined a few dozen fragments and discovered “traces of ink on many fragments that appeared blank to the naked eye,” the authority said in a statement.

One of those fragments could not be attributed to any known manuscripts, raising the possibility that it belongs to a still unknown text.

Other fragments have been identified as belonging to the Books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Jubilees.

One is from the Temple Scroll, while another has been identified as belonging to the Great Psalms Scroll.

The authority said the fragments “provide new insights” to researchers studying the scrolls.

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