(HERITAGE DAILY) The collection of more than 25,000 fragments of ancient manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls include, among other ancient texts, the oldest copies of books of the Hebrew Bible.
But finding a way to piece them all together in order to understand their meaning has remained an incredibly difficult puzzle, especially given that most pieces weren’t excavated in an orderly fashion. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Cell on June 2 have used an intriguing clue to help in this effort: DNA “fingerprints” lifted from the animal skins on which the texts were written.
“The discovery of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls is one of the most important archaeological discoveries ever made,” says Oded Rechavi (@OdedRechavi) of Tel Aviv University in Israel. “However, it poses two major challenges: first, most of them were not found intact but rather disintegrated into thousands of fragments, which had to be sorted and pieced together, with no prior knowledge on how many pieces have been lost forever, or–in the case of non-biblical compositions–how the original text should read. Depending on the classification of each fragment, the interpretation of any given text could change dramatically.”
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