Scientists use DNA to unravel Dead Sea Scrolls puzzle mystery

Scientists use DNA to unravel Dead Sea Scrolls puzzle mystery
Scientists use DNA to unravel Dead Sea Scrolls puzzle mystery

SCIENTISTS have begun using DNA testing to piece together the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are made up of thousands of fragments of ancient manuscripts, discovering in the process that some parts have been ordered or paired improperly.

A Bedouin shepherd discovered the first by chance in 1947. More were recovered in the following years from 11 caves near Qumran, a ruined settlement at the north-west corner of the Dead Sea.

They then passed through many hands. On top of that, most were not found intact. Thanks to those two facts, piecing the more than 25,000 fragments together has been an excruciating puzzle.

But sorting them out has long been considered an important task, for reasons scientific, cultural, historical and religious.

Oded Rechavi of Israel’s Tel Aviv University called the discovery of the two-millennia-old scrolls one of the most important archaeological ones ever made.

For example, the scrolls contain several of the oldest versions of books of the Bible ever found, making them of vital interest to Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Rechavi and his colleagues, including Noam Mizrahi, also of Tel Aviv University, and Mattias Jakobsson, of Uppsala University in Sweden, reported their findings in the US science journal Cell on Tuesday.

Rechavi said that their DNA analysis of samples of about 35 fragments confirmed that certain pieces indeed belonged together.

However, in one case, it proved almost beyond doubt that fragments long thought to belong together were in fact from two different animals – sheep and cow – suggesting they do not belong together at all.


– June 2, 2020 @ 18:29 GMT |

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