A new study showed that the four fragments of the Dead Sea manuscript stored in the library of John Ryland of the University of Manchester, which were previously considered empty, actually contain text. It is reported by DQCAAS (network for the study of artifacts of the scattered caves of Qumran and archival sources). If it’s not about the scrolls in the collection of the Bible Museum in Washington that turned out to be fakes.
This discovery means that the University of Manchester is the only institution in the UK that has authentic text fragments of Dead Sea scrolls. Unlike recent cases of fakes, supposed to be fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls, all these small pieces were discovered during official excavations of Qumran caves and never passed through the antiquities market.
In the 1950s, the Jordanian government donated fragments to Ronald Reed, an expert at the University of Leeds, so that he could study their physical and chemical composition. The samples were supposed to be ideal for scientific research since they were empty. They were studied and published by the scientist and his student John Poole, and then stored in a safe place.
After almost 70 years, exploring fragments for a new study, scientists considered it possible that one of the scrolls really contained a letter, and therefore decided to photograph all existing fragments larger than 1 cm using multispectral images.
51 fragments were depicted in front and back. Six were identified for further detailed study, of which it was found that four have readable text in Hebrew and Aramaic, written in carbon-based ink. The study also revealed rulers and small traces of letters on other fragments.
The most informative fragment contains the remains of four lines of text with 15-16 letters, most of which are only partially preserved, but the word “Shabbat” (“Saturday”) can be clearly read. This text may be related to the Bible book of Ezekiel (46: 1-3). One part with text is the edge of the parchment scroll section with a sewn thread, and the first letters of two lines of text can be visible to the left of this binding.