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Ancient DNA offers clues about the Dead Sea Scrolls

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It is one of the world’s most daunting jigsaw puzzles: 25,000 pieces of ancient parchment comprising the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Researchers have spent decades trying to laboriously piece together the 2,000-year-old fragments, most of which were discovered in the 1940s and 1950s in 11 caves near a site called Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea.

Now a team of Israeli, Swedish, and American researchers has applied advanced genetic testing to the material, a parchment made from animal skins. Their findings, published Tuesday in the journal Cell, show that at least some of the material likely originated from other parts of the region rather than at Qumran.

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“There are many scrolls fragments that we don’t know how to connect, and if we connect wrong pieces together it can change dramatically the interpretation of any scroll,” said geneticist Oded Rechavi of Tel Aviv University, who led the effort.

“Analysis of the text found on these Jeremiah pieces suggests that they not only belong to different scrolls, they also represent different versions of the prophetic book,” said Noam Mizrahi, a biblical scholar at Tel Aviv University. “The fact that the scrolls that are most divergent textually are also made of a different animal species is indicative that they originate at a different provenance.”

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Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/06/ancient-dna-offers-clues-physical-origins-dead-sea-scrolls/

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Noam Zioni

interesting! glad to have such a special historical place in my country :)

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