(ORDO NEWS) — A study of the DNA of the Dead Sea Scrolls showed that not all ancient manuscripts came from the desert landscape where they were discovered, according to a published study.
About 900 manuscripts were found between 1947 – first by Bedouin shepherds – until 1956 in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea.
The scrolls of parchment and papyrus are written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, and include some of the earliest known Bible texts, including the oldest surviving copy of The Ten Commandments.
Text research has been going on for decades, and in a recent study, DNA tests on fragments of manuscripts show that some of them were not originally from the area around the caves.
“We found by analyzing fragments of parchment that some texts were written on the skin of cows and sheep, whereas before we thought that all of them were written on the skin of goats,” said researcher Pnina Shor, project manager for the Israel Antiquities Agency (IAA).
“This proves that manuscripts do not come from the desert where they were found,” she said.
Researchers from the IAA and Tel Aviv University were unable to pinpoint where the fragments came from during their seven-year study, which focused on 13 texts.
The Dead Sea Scrolls date from the third century BC.
Many experts believe that the manuscripts were written by the Essenes, a dissident Jewish sect that retreated into the Judean desert around Qumran and its caves. Others claim that some texts were hidden by Jews fleeing the advance of the Romans.
“These initial results will have implications for studying the life of Jews during the Second Temple,” in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, Shor said.
A total of about 25,000 pieces of parchment were discovered, and the texts were constantly studied for 60 years.
“This is like joining together puzzle pieces,” said Oded Rechavi, a professor who led the team at Tel Aviv University.
“There are many fragments of scrolls that we don’t know how to put together, and if we connect the wrong parts together, this can dramatically change the interpretation of any scroll,” he said.
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