DNA analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls has unveiled that not all of the old manuscripts came from the desert environment where they were found.
There are now around 900 manuscripts discovered between 1947 – by Bedouin shepherds – and 1956 in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea – today situated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The scrolls include Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, and some of the most ancient known texts from the Bible. Research indicates that some manuscript fragments were not initially from the region around the caves. Here are the latest details.
The Dead Sea Scrolls’ DNA Analysis Details
A team of researchers from the Tel Aviv University and the IAA found that some manuscript fragments were written on the skin of sheep and cows. They previously believed they had all been written on goat skin. Such a thing proves that the parchments don’t come from the desert where they were discovered.
Unfortunately, the team was unable to tell where the manuscripts came from during their seven-year study, which centered on 13 texts.
Some experts think the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by the Essenes, a dissident Jewish sect that had gone into the Judaean desert near Qumran and its caves. Others claim that some of the texts were protected by Jews escaping the advance of the Romans—the Dead Sea Scrolls date from the third century BCE to the first century CE.
“These initial results will have repercussions on the study of the life of Jews during the Second Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE,” explained the IAA researcher Pnina Shor.
In total, 25,000 manuscripts fragments have been found, and the texts have been continuously analyzed for more than 50 years. Researchers still need time to connect all the pieces and find an interpretation of the scrolls. Luckily, we have enough tools and devices to realize that.