Most ancient Torah scroll since Dead Sea Scrolls found and restored
Burned remnant from 1,500-year-old Book of Leviticus made legible via hi-tech lab.
A small, seemingly unremarkable burned fragment found 45 years ago during excavations on the western shore of the Dead Sea has profoundly belied its appearance – after hi-tech sequencing determined it is actually a 1,500-year-old Torah scroll from the Book of Leviticus.
“The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting,” said Dr. Sefi Porath, who led the Ein Gedi excavations.
According to Porath, Ein Gedi – a Jewish village in the Byzantine period during the 4th – 7th century CE – was once a prosperous community that housed a synagogue featuring a mosaic floor and 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,” he explained.
“In the archaeological excavations of the burnt synagogue, in addition to the charred scroll fragments, we found a bronze seven-branched candelabrum [menorah], the community’s money box containing 3,500 coins, glass and ceramic oil lamps, and vessels that held perfume.”
While Porath noted that the cause of the fire remains unsolved, he said that theories of the destruction range from speculation of Beduin raiders from the region east of the Dead Sea, to conflicts with the Byzantine government.
At the conference, hosted by the IAA and Culture and Sports Ministry, the archeologist said it took scientists and researchers around the globe over one year to decipher the Torah verses, which he found with his late colleague, Dr. Dan Barag.
The grueling process, he said, was undertaken at the Lunder Family Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Center of the IAA, which uses state of the art and advanced technologies to preserve and document the Dead Sea scrolls.
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