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VIDEO: Digital unwrapping and reading of the En Gedi OT scroll

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News has posted on this recent technological development. It is worth taking a couple of minutes to watch the video describing and imaging what was done using AI technologies:

Fascinating, what 3-d scanning can do. It also of course corroborates the known result from the main Dead Sea Scroll finds, that the OT text was faithfully transmitted to posterity from remote times. END

PS: Chain of custody for the NT message and by extension its texts:

The chain of custody on the NT

PPS: HT NewScientist, a case of Lead-based ink pigment detected in a papyrus manuscript written in Greek uncials:

Detecting Text using X-ray detection of Pb-based ink pigment or binder (HT: NewScientist)

25 Replies to “VIDEO: Digital unwrapping and reading of the En Gedi OT scroll

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    VIDEO: Digital unwrapping and reading of the En Gedi OT scroll

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    The digital unwrapping initiative page http://www2.cs.uky.edu/dri/

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Clipping:

    In 2015, Dr. William Brent Seales and his team digitally unfurled the scroll from En-Gedi, revealing it to be the book of Leviticus. It is the oldest Hebrew Bible ever found after the Dead Sea scrolls and the only one ever uncovered in an ancient Jewish synagogue.

    En-Gedi, Israel is the desert oasis where David hid from King Saul in the biblical account of 1 Samuel. But in 1970, it became the site of an exciting discovery. Right there on the shore of the Dead Sea, an Israeli archeologist pulled a blackened, 3-inch, cigar-shaped stick out of the ground. He was excavating the ruins of an 8th century BCE synagogue, and the ground where he was standing was actually the site of the ancient temple’s holy ark.

    This piece of charcoal, therefore, represented a dramatic discovery, as it was almost certainly a sacred scroll. But, burned and charred from a fire in the 6th century AD, then further damaged by 1500 ensuing years of deterioration, it was impossible to unroll and verify the crumbling scroll’s contents without completely destroying it. So, despite the archaeologist’s hunch that he had found something incredibly significant, the artifact was shelved and then eventually locked away in a vault at the Israel Antiquities Authority. There it remained untouched and unread for almost half a century.

    In 2014, Pnina Shor, curator and director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the Israel Antiquities Authority, contacted us and wanted to know if we could take a look at some data she had acquired from a volumetric scan of the scroll. We agreed, she gave us a hard drive containing the CT scan data, and in a few short months we achieved the impossible. Using our process of virtual unwrapping that we had worked for 15 years to develop, we revealed the scroll to be part of the Bible, the first chapter of Leviticus to be exact, and we did it without ever touching, opening, or even seeing the scroll.

    When we sent Shor our preliminary results, she immediately called a press conference for the following week. She told the press, “When we saw the results we almost fainted. We had been certain it was just a shot in the dark.”

    Shor’s shot in the dark — when pushed through our virtual unwrapping software pipeline — turned out to be the oldest Hebrew Bible ever found other than the Dead Sea scrolls and the only one ever uncovered in a Jewish synagogue. As such, it is one of the most significant biblical findings of the 21st century.

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    This is fascinating work.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    Now if technology could reproduce all of the Mayan works that the Spanish destroyed….

  6. 6
    john_a_designer says:

    Fascinating, what 3-d scanning can do. It also of course corroborates the known result from the main Dead Sea Scroll finds, that the OT text was faithfully transmitted to posterity from remote times.

    So the modern skeptic’s claim that the original text, which has been copied multiple times so what we possess today is a copy-of-copies-of-copies, has been corrupted like messages are quickly corrupted in the game of telephone (Chinese whispers in the UK) has been debunked.

    https://icebreakerideas.com/telephone-game/

    NT scholar Dan Wallace gives a number of other reasons why the game of telephone is a poor analogy.

    The title of Eichenwald’s section that deals with manuscript transmission is “Playing Telephone with the Word of God.” The implication is that the transmission of the Bible is very much like the telephone game—a parlor game every American knows. It involves a brief narrative that someone whispers to the next person in line who then whispers this to the next person, and so on for several people. Then, the last person recites out loud what he or she heard and everyone has a good laugh for how garbled the story got. But the transmission of scripture is not at all like the telephone game. First, the goal of the telephone game is to see how badly the story can get misrepresented, while the goal of New Testament copying was by and large to produce very careful, accurate copies of the original. Second, in the telephone game there is only one line of transmission, while with the New Testament there are multiple lines of transmission. Third, one is oral, recited once in another’s ear, while the other is written, copied by a faithful scribe who then would check his or her work or have someone else do it. Fourth, in the telephone game only the wording of the last person in the line can be checked, while for the New Testament textual critics have access to many of the earlier texts, some going back very close to the time of the autographs. Fifth, even the ancient scribes had access to earlier texts, and would often check their work against a manuscript that was many generations older than their immediate ancestor. The average papyrus manuscript would last for a century or more. Thus, even a late second-century scribe could have potentially examined the original document he or she was copying. If telephone were played the way New Testament transmission occurred, it would make for a ridiculously boring parlor game!

    https://danielbwallace.com/tag/new-testament-transmission/

    Of course, to be fair, Christian scribes were not as careful in transmitting Greek NT texts as Jewish scribes transmitting OT Hebrew text were. However, the ancient NT texts that we do have are much more plentiful and closer to the original manuscripts. For example, we have several Greek MSS which are less than 200 years from the original compositions. Which means, according to Wallace, some of the second century scribes could even had “examined the original document.” Modern scholars studying these texts can easily spot and correct copyist errors by comparing copies with copies– not something you can do in the game of telephone. In fact it would be a rather uninteresting and unentertaining game if it was played that way. The idea of games after all is to have some fun.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, the Rylands fragment is credibly c 125 AD. It is a codex copy of Jn, in a fragment, found in Egypt. That’s 300 miles from likely place of composition and maybe 35 years later. That essentially puts paid to attempts to push the NT into C2 composition. KF

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, indeed fascinating. And there is a library of scrolls from a villa in Herculaneum that may yield to similar techniques. Over 1,000 scrolls. KF

  9. 9
    cmow says:

    JAD @6,
    A little off topic, but regarding examining NT originals — early church father Peter of Alexandria, writing around 300 CE, states in his writings that the original of the Gospel of John — the autograph — was present during his time at the Church of Ephesus. He mentions this almost parenthetically while discussing the timing of Passover, specifically to point out that the original Gospel document correctly points out the hour of the day in John 19:14.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Belfast says:

    Thanks Cmow. I learn something new all the time. I certainly never knew that.
    John 11:9 says there were 12 hours in the day.
    The hours themselves are proportional to the length of the day. Sunrise to sunset is 12 hour, with length varying as to season. The sixth hour then is six hours from sunrise. In summer each hour is longer individually than in winter.
    Now, I don’t suppose you know off-hand what time sunrise and sunset were on Crucifixion? I am just curious as to the closest one can get. I am guessing it was 12.00 as the sixth would theoretically be when the sun was highest.
    Thanks again for that info.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I found the Science paper on the En Gedi scroll: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/9/e1601247.full KF

  13. 13
    john_a_designer says:

    Here is some information about Dan Wallace who grew up in Southern California in Newport Beach and admits he started out as “a surf bum.” He concedes that was an unlikely beginning “for somebody who started his own Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts to come from.” According to Wikipedia:

    New Testament scholar and professor Daniel B. Wallace founded CSNTM in September 2002 to utilize emerging technologies to photograph and fully archive all known Greek New Testament manuscripts. The Center is based in Plano, Texas. Since its founding, CSNTM has gained an international reputation for its expertise in digitization and manuscript studies. As of 2019, the CSNTM has collaborated with more than 45 institutions on 4 continents to produce nearly 300,000 images from approximately 700 New Testament manuscripts. In the process, they have discovered over 75 New Testament manuscripts that were previously unknown. Their online library features images or links to more than 1,700 manuscripts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_the_Study_of_New_Testament_Manuscripts

    My point in referring to him earlier is that he not only has a lot of knowledge concerning ancient manuscripts. He has a lot of literal hands on experience examining them and digitizing them.

    So whose opinion should I put more stock in? Wallace’s opinion as a real life New Testament scholar that the Greek text we can reconstruct from the manuscript evidence is accurate to within ninety eight percent of the original, with most of variations being trivial (different spellings, grammar usage or word order), or someone who makes the off-the-cuff claim that because the text has been copied, recopied numerous times that like the game of telephone we have no hope of recovering the original text or its meaning.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    A wider video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98W-j545-0Y on Herculaneum, on older techniques.

  15. 15
    polistra says:

    Wonderfully clear animation and narration. The cleverest part is using X-rays to spot “Inks containing iron or lead”. I wouldn’t have guessed that old inks were made that way.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    P, it seems a micro CAT scan had been done in Israel and the files were shared on a long shot hope — the physical unrolling methods used for Herculaneum Scrolls are let’s just say inelegant and potentially damaging. They hit the jackpot due to clever math as outlined in the paper https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/9/e1601247.full . They first have to discern where the surface most likely is and look for ink, on which the letters appear. If they wander off, poof. And where is the scroll can be difficult. KF

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, the NT text is pretty confidently understood, and the OT is held to be reliably known too. The Telegraph game is fun but misleading compared to the circumstances at work for transcription of important or sacred documents. KF

    PS: I append to the OP a chart on chain of custody on NT gospel message and associated text.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    Found: https://scrolls4all.org/scrolls/kosher-ink/

    . . .

    >> When the ink on the Dead Sea Scrolls was analyzed using a cyclotron at the Davis campus of the University of California, there were three recipes for the ink. One was the carbon base gall ink; the other was the iron gall ink. The difference in the two is Iron-gall ink burned into the parchment by reacting with collagen in the skin.

    The third type of ink was found in a few scrolls at Qumran. It was called “red ink”. After analysis it proved that mercury sulfate was used rather than iron or copper sulfate. This is a very rare occurrence. Also, in the writings of China it is recorded that among the Jews in ancient time they were in possession of a “Red Torah”. Very little is known about this Torah other than it was red. Perhaps the ink was red because the Chinese used mercury in many religious ceremonies and the Jews used it also in their ink. Perhaps the scroll came from the region around Babylon where it was common to write scrolls on deer skin. Usually deer skin scrolls will turn red with age.>

  20. 20
    Ed George says:

    Interesting technology.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    Mercury is of course toxic. I wonder how such toxic ink was treated in production and in reading. I gather the Romans understood that Cinnabar was toxic. I saw evidence that several toxic compounds were used in for instance ancient cosmetics. Ouch. Of course, many bright colours were based on toxic compounds. Lead white and Lead Chromate (bright yellow) come to mind. Paints until recently, often were quite toxic.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    One of the lurking issues is the implicit chain: Text –> Code –> Language –> Design and Purpose involving language-using intelligence. Compare the textual, coded nature of DNA as a molecular nanotechnology.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    Onward find:
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2081832-lead-ink-from-scrolls-may-unlock-library-destroyed-by-vesuvius/

    >>Some 800 scrolls, part of the classical world’s best-surviving library, have tantalised scholars since they were unearthed in a villa in the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum in 1752. About 200 are in such a delicate state that they have never been read.

    Unrolling the charred scrolls can destroy them, so people have been X-raying the bundles in the hopes of discerning the writing inside. But progress has been slow – it is difficult to detect the difference between the letters and the papyrus they are written on.

    Now physicist Vito Mocella of the Italian National Research Council and his colleagues have revealed lead in the ink on two Herculaneum papyri fragments held in the Institute of France in Paris.

    The presence of lead means that imaging techniques could be recalibrated to pick up the metal, something at which X-rays excel . . . .

    In 2009, computer scientist Brent Seales at the University of Kentucky in Lexington picked up on the presence of metal in the scroll ink.

    Mocella’s team has now used a powerful particle accelerator known as a synchrotron to confirm that finding, challenging the long-standing wisdom that metal-based inks hadn’t been widespread until the 4th or 5th centuries AD. “From a historical point of view, it is a surprise,” says Mocella.

    Mocella’s team suggests that the high concentration of lead makes it likely the metal was purposely introduced into the ink, rather than coming from water contamination or a metal inkpot. It could have served as a pigment or as a binding medium.>>

    This is of course a case of evidence leading to reworking what we think we know.

    PS: A photo was added to the OP.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm: NYT c 1990 on printing, packaging and bright colours:

    https://www.nytimes.com/1990/05/13/business/technology-farewell-to-those-old-printing-ink-blues-and-a-few-reds-and-yellows.html

    >>Brightly colored designs on packages of consumer goods help establish brand images and promote sales by catching the eye of consumers as they browse along supermarket aisles.

    But many of the inks that produce those brilliant colors are based on pigments containing such heavy metals as lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium. Since many compounds of these metals are considered serious hazards to human health, some state governments are moving to restrict them.

    Packaging and printing industry officials complain they may lose some of their most striking colors as a result. And, they say, if restrictions are extended to other metals, including barium, copper and zinc, the palette of colors available to package designers will be severely reduced.

    ”We may have to live with limitations on the colors we can use,” said Fred Shapiro, the head of Pro-Flex Consultants in Huntington, N.Y. ”It may not be possible to have a General Motors blue or a Coca-Cola red.”

    The inks in question are most often used in packaging and for such projects as painting dividing lines on highways. The printing ink business in the United States totalled $2.3 billion in sales last year, according to the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers.

    Inks have three major elements: pigment, vehicle and binder. The pigment, a powder, carries the color; the vehicle is a liquid that holds the pigment and allows it to be applied, and the binder attaches the pigment to the object being printed.

    Most of the problem with heavy metals involves pigments. The brightest yellows, for instance, are based on chromium and lead. Cadmium and mercury turn up in bright and deep reds. Although they are safe while bound to the packages used by consumers, the heavy metals can present health threats if they leach out of landfills into drinking water supplies. Incineration, the favored method of treating solid waste in many areas, compounds the problem by concentrating the heavy metals in the ash.

    ”Many of the heavy metals present in municipal solid waste incinerator byproducts have well-defined health effects,” wrote Richard Denison, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund in a recent study on incineration. ”Arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and lead are carcinogenic metals; arsenic, lead, vanadium, cadmium and mercury are neurotoxic; zinc, copper and mercury are acutely toxic to aquatic life.”

    Heavy metals can also be a deterrent to the current efforts to recycle boxes and paperboard containers to reduce the amount of trash going to landfills. ”The first stage of recycling is to pulp the material in water,” said David Brenner of the Packaging Group, Inc., a consulting firm in Milltown, N.J. ”If there are heavy metals in the inks, the water picks it up and you have toxic waste-water” . . . >>

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: do we see the subtle contrast between being assumed lumps of coal and being recognised as artifacts, exhibiting design? Do we see the role played by discovery of symbolically coded text? Do we have another actually observed source of meaningful text, other than language using intelligence? KF

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