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Archaeometry of the Dead Sea Scrolls

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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).

Affiliations: 1: BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing Berlin


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