July 24, 2015 | By Kira

A fragile scroll that had been burnt beyond recognition has finally been deciphered thanks to modern 3D scanning technology, and revealed to be not only a part of a Torah scroll, but the first Torah ever to be found inside a synagogue. The discovery was enabled by an international team of researchers comprised of the Isreal Antiquities Authority, the University of Kentucky, and Merkel Technologies LTD.

Some 1,500 years ago, in a Jewish synagogue located on the western shore of the Dead Sea was mysteriously burnt to the ground. In 1970, more than 45 years later, a team of researchers led by Dr. Sefi Porath returned to the site, known as Ein Gedi, and excavated an ancient scroll from a Holy Ark in the northern wall. Due to the extremely delicate condition of the burnt scroll, it could neither be unrolled nor deciphered. This week, after a full year of extremely delicate work using the latest 3D scanners and digital imaging software, the Isreal Antiquities Authority (IAA) has proudly announced that not only have they managed to decipher the text on the scroll, but they have discovered it is the most ancient scroll from the five books of the Hebrew Bible to be found since the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946 and 1956.

The charred scroll

"The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting”, said Dr. Porath. “Ein Gedi was a Jewish village in the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh century CE) and had a synagogue with an exquisite mosaic floor and a Holy Ark. The settlement was completely burnt to the ground, and none of its inhabitants ever returned to reside there again, or to pick through the ruins in order to salvage valuable property…We have no information regarding the cause of the fire, but speculation about the destruction ranges from Bedouin raiders from the region east of the Dead Sea to conflicts with the Byzantine government.” 

The digitally 'unrolled' scroll created by the University of Kentucky's digital imaging software

The scroll had been preserved by the Lunder Family Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Center of the IAA for 45 years in a climate-controlle vault. Just last year, Merkel Technologies LTD, a company based near Tel Aviv that specializes in research, medical, analytical and diagnostic instrumentation volunteered their professional services and equipment to the IAA, in order to finally find out what was inside. Using a Bruker Skysan model 1176 Micro-CT scanner and extreme delicacy, they were able to take high resolution 3D scans of the scroll’s interior, as well as the phylacteries and phylactery cases (small leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment). Next, the scans were sent to the University of Kentucky, where Professor Brent Seales had developed advanted digital imaging software that allowed him to virtually unroll the scrolls and finally find out what was written inside. To the international team’s amazement they found themselves reading the first eight verses of the Book of Leviticus, laying down the rules for ritual sacrifice:

The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When any of you bring an offering of livestock to the Lord, you shall bring your offering from the herd or from the flock. If the offering is a burnt-offering from the herd, you shall offer a male without blemish; you shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, for acceptance in your behalf before the Lord. You shall lay your hand on the head of the burnt-offering, and it shall be acceptable in your behalf as atonement for you. The bull shall be slaughtered before the Lord; and Aaron's sons the priests shall offer the blood, dashing the blood against all sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. The burnt-offering shall be flayed and cut up into its parts. The sons of the priest Aaron shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the parts, with the head and the suet, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar. (Leviticus 1:1-8)

The discovery is of great cultural significance to the IAA and to Judaism, and marks yet another important way that new technologies can help us learn about ancient history. Not only is this one of the oldest scrolls from the Hebrew Bible, but it is also the first time that a Torah scroll has ever been found inside an ancient synagogue, never mind inside an actual Holy Ark. “Dealing with the Dead Sea Scrolls on a daily basis is really a privilege,” said Pnina Shor, curator and director of the IAA’s Dead Se Scrolls Projects. “The knowledge that we are preserving the most important find of the 20th century and one of the Western world’s most important cultural treasures causes us to preceed with the utmost care and caution and use the most advanced technologies available today.”

The exciting discovery was presented this week at a press conference in Jerusalem, which was attended by MK Miri Regev, the Minister of Culture and Sports and by the director of the IAA himself, Mr. Isreal Hasson. 



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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