X-Rays will help read Dead Sea Scrolls

September 12, 2007

clipped from www.guardian.co.uk

Ancient writings from the Dead Sea scrolls are to be read for the first time by British scientists using powerful x-rays.

The team will examine rare and unread fragments of the scrolls, which are believed to shed light on how the texts came to be written in caves along the north-west coast of the sea nearly 2,000 years ago.

The technique will give scientists from Cardiff University a first opportunity to read ancient texts considered too fragile to open.

Researchers led by Tim Wess have developed computer software that can “unravel” x-ray images of rolled up parchment documents to reveal the writing, even if the parchment has text on either side.

The scientists have focused their efforts on reading parchments from the 18th century and found that they are able to read 80% of the words written on documents without unravelling them.

“There are some parts of the Dead Sea scrolls that haven’t been unrolled, and there are parts of the Torah that haven’t been seen as well,” Prof Wess said.
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