More than 50 years ago, a shepherd found seven scrolls in the Qumran Caves in the Judean desert of the West Bank, near the Dead Sea. The findings formed a larger manuscript which has come to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls which date back to the third century BC.
The papers contain Biblical and non-Biblical stories and have offered scientists and historians a glimpse into the past and shed new light on Abrahamic religions such as Christianity and Judaism.
Fragments of the scrolls are scattered through various institutions across the globe, with researchers attempting to unravel the mystery.
Now, scientists from the University of Manchester have discovered what was thought to be blank pieces of fragments actually contain hidden texts.
The fragments were analysed by using a technique known as multispectral imaging, where something is analysed using the electromagnetic spectrum to discover what would be invisible to the naked eye.
A total of 51 fragments were analysed, and one fragment contained at least four lines of text which are yet to be fully translated, but one of the words is Shabbat (Sabbath).
Another contained the Hebrew letter for L, with researchers desperate to uncover more before the full findings are released.
University of Manchester historian and archaeologist Joan Taylor said: “Looking at one of the fragments with a magnifying glass, I thought I saw a small, faded letter – a lamed, the Hebrew letter ‘L’.
“Frankly, since all these fragments were supposed to be blank and had even been cut into for leather studies, I also thought I might be imagining things.
“But then it seemed maybe other fragments could have very faded letters too. With new techniques for revealing ancient texts now available, I felt we had to know if these letters could be exposed.
“There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa.”
The University of Manchester added the new analysis proves these fragments are authentic.
A statement said: “Unlike the recent cases of forgeries assumed to be Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, all of these small pieces were unearthed in the official excavations of the Qumran caves, and were never passed through the antiquities market.
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“In the 1950s, the fragments were gifted by the Jordanian government to Ronald Reed, leather expert at the University of Leeds, so he could study their physical and chemical composition.
“It was assumed that the pieces were ideal for scientific tests, as they were blank and relatively worthless.”
In total, more than 1,000 ancient manuscripts have been discovered from 11 different caves.
Although they have been preserved for almost 2,000 years, researchers are still unsure who the original authors were.
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