Scientists analyzed DNA samples obtained from the material on which the Dead Sea Scrolls are written, and concluded that ancient manuscripts were created outside the Judean Desert. This is stated in an article for the scientific journal Cell.
“Many scrolls were made of cowhides, which suggests that they were not written by the inhabitants of the Judean desert, but by inhabitants of other regions of ancient Israel. The existence of two different versions of the book of the prophet Jeremiah suggests that their sacredness did not depend on the accuracy of the wording, which is not characteristic of late Judaism and Christianity, ”explained Noah Mizrahi, a professor at Tel Aviv University and one of the authors of the publication.
The first scrolls of the Dead Sea were found in 1947 in a cave located one and a half kilometers west of the northwest coast of the Dead Sea. Subsequently, from 1947 to 1956, the Bedouins and archaeologists found another 10 caves, and in almost all of them – whole or fragmented parchments with manuscripts.
Today, over 900 manuscripts and fragments of them are written by members of a religious community, which researchers call the Qumranites or Essenes. In addition to biblical texts, manuscripts with psalms, hymns, calendar texts, eschatological works were discovered. Scrolls date from the period from the 3rd century BC to the 2nd century AD.
The age and variety of scroll fragments complicate their research. Scientists have to compare the shape and color of the scraps, and also compare pieces of text on them. Other experts decided to turn to DNA, which could remain in the skin of animals, from which manuscripts were made. Instead of getting a new whole picture of the scrolls, the scientists had only more questions, as it turned out that some scrolls were written on cow’s skins – and they could not live in the desert. Researchers have suggested that parchment or the texts themselves were created in other parts of old Israel or the Middle East.