Dead Sea Scroll fragments thought to be blank reveal text

Our new research has revealed that four Dead Sea Scroll manuscript fragments housed at The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library, which were previously thought to be blank, do in fact contain text.

The discovery means that The University of Manchester is the only institution in the UK to possess authenticated textual fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Unlike the recent cases of forgeries assumed to be Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, all of these small pieces were unearthed in the official excavations of the Qumran caves, and were never passed through the antiquities market.

In the 1950s, the fragments were gifted by the Jordanian government to Ronald Reed, leather expert at the University of Leeds, so he could study their physical and chemical composition. It was assumed that the pieces were ideal for scientific tests, as they were blank and relatively worthless. These were studied and published by Reed and his student John Poole, and then stored safely away.

In 1997 the Reed Collection was donated to The University of Manchester through the initiative of Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, George Brooke. These fragments have been stored in Reed’s own labelled boxes in The John Rylands Library, and have been relatively untouched since then.

When examining the fragments for the new study, Professor Joan Taylor thought it possible that one of them did actually contain a letter, and therefore decided to photograph all of the existing fragments over 1 cm that appear blank to the naked eye, using multispectral imaging.

51 fragments were imaged front and back. Six were identified for further detailed investigation – of these, it was established that four have readable Hebrew/Aramaic text written in carbon-based ink. The study has also revealed ruled lines and small vestiges of letters on other fragments.

2 Prof Joan Taylor in Rylands Library c. Joan Taylor b
Joan Taylor examining the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in the John Rylands Library Reading Room, taken by Sandra Jacobs. Copyright DQCAAS.

The most substantial fragment has the remains of four lines of text with 15-16 letters, most of which are only partially preserved, but the word Shabbat (Sabbath) can be clearly read. This text (Ryl4Q22) may be related to the biblical book of Ezekiel (46:1-3). One piece with text is the edge of a parchment scroll section, with sewn thread, and the first letters of two lines of text may be seen to the left of this binding.


“Looking at one of the fragments with a magnifying glass, I thought I saw a small, faded letter – a lamed, the Hebrew letter ‘L’,” said Professor Taylor. “Frankly, since all these fragments were supposed to be blank and had even been cut into for leather studies, I also thought I might be imagining things. But then it seemed maybe other fragments could have very faded letters too.”

“With new techniques for revealing ancient texts now available, I felt we had to know if these letters could be exposed.  There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa.”

Our research team is currently undertaking further investigations of these fragments in consultation with The John Rylands Library and Professor Brooke, as part of a larger project studying the various Qumran artefacts at the John Rylands Library. The results will be published in a forthcoming report.

“I am hugely grateful to Professor Joan Taylor and her colleagues, and to the brilliant work of our imaging specialists, for bringing this astonishing discovery to light,” said Professor Christopher Pressler, John Rylands University Librarian and Director of The University of Manchester Library, said: Our University is now the only institution in the United Kingdom to hold authenticated textual fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is particularly fitting that these fragments are held here at The John Rylands Library, one of the world’s greatest repositories of Judaeo-Christian texts.”

We at DQCAAS would also like to thank Sandra Jacobs, researcher, and Elizabeth Gow, Manuscript Curator and Archivist of the John Rylands Library. We thank the Leverhulme Trust for their support.

This is posted to duplicate the press releases we have issued through the University of Manchester, King’s College London, University of Malta and Faculty of Theology, Lugano.

Final Report on the Excavations at Cave 11Q Now Published

 

Cave 11Q is the only cave that has remained unpublished out of all those where manuscripts were found in the 20th century. It was discovered by Ta’amireh Bedouin in early 1956 and excavations were carried out in the same year by Gerald Lankester Harding and Roland de Vaux. In 1988, the cave was excavated again by Joseph Patrich and most recently (2017) by Marcello Fidanzio and Dan Bahat.

In 2016 the Qumran Caves Publication Project (EBAF – ISCAB-FTL) resumed the work for a full publication of all the Qumran caves excavated by Roland de Vaux. The final report on the excavations at Cave 11Q is now published: Jean-Baptiste Humbert and Marcello Fidanzio, eds., Khirbet Qumrân et Aïn Feshkha: Vol. IV A: Cave 11Q: Archaeology and New Scroll Fragments (NTOA.SA 8A; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2019).

The DQCAAS network has actively contributed to this publication, with all its members: Marcello Fidanzio is director of the Qumran Caves Publication Project and co-editor of the volume, Joan Taylor and Dennis Mizzi are authors of studies on archaeological materials. This volume includes important results of radiocarbon dating of textiles funded by DQCAAS.

11Q cover

See: Contents

Award Time

The Caves of Qumran. edited by one of our DQCAAS team members, Marcello Fidanzio, has won the 2019 Biblical Archaeology Society award for the best scholarly book.  Other team members Dennis Mizzi and Joan Taylor contributed chapters to this volume, along with many other Qumran experts. This book is the proceedings of an excellent conference held in Lugano in 2014, and we are all delighted with this result. Well done Marcello for all your amazing work.

 

The Allegro Image Archive

 

The Dispersed Qumran Cave Artefacts and Archival Sources (DQCAAS) project is now drawing to a close, after three+ years of much-appreciated funding from the Leverhulme Trust. As part of our project, Dr. Sandra Jacobs has laboured long and hard in digitising and uploading a large collection of photographs taken by John Allegro in the 1950s and 1960s and we are very grateful to her.

John Allegro took pictures of Qumran and the caves already in 1954, and added to these in his successive journeys back to the region over many years. He was part of the early publication team and was instrumental in opening the Copper Scroll. He was also an excellent photographer. We hope that his collection will be appreciated by Scrolls scholars, archaeologists and the wider public as we all seek to understand more deeply the site of Qumran and its vicinity, the caves of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the texts themselves.

This photographic collection has already been available in a microfiche edition prepared by George Brooke and Helen Bond: The Allegro Qumran Photograph Collection (Leiden: Brill, 1996).  Since microfiche readers in libraries are becoming harder to find, and the image quality is poor, it seemed essential to make this set of important photographs available digitally. The fine work of cataloguing and identifying the images done by Brooke and Bond will nevertheless be much appreciated for years to come and is necessary for a fuller understanding of the photographs. The monochrome digital images provided here correspond to the microfiche set.

We also provide Allegro’s colour slide collection, many of which overlap with the monochrome images. We are very grateful to the Collections Studio of Manchester Museum. For image requests, please contact Rachel Petts, curator: rachel.petts@manchester.ac.uk

As well as the slides and prints in the Manchester Museum, we include also on this site a range of important examples made available by the daughter of John Allegro, Judith Brown, who has provided additional photographs. Please note that she holds copyright over both the Manchester Museum images and her personal archive, and these images may not be reproduced without her permission. We are enormously grateful to her for her help and support and for allowing us to release these important images via this site.

Thank you to all.

 

A Thank You Note

As our existing funding from the Leverhulme Trust draws to a close, the hard work of everyone in our team does not. We will continue to feature new archival and artefactual material relating to the Qumran caves, and plan to upload details of soon-to-be-realized project publications and conference presentations, together with further work that is funded by this project grant but not fully completed. The project has brought in a large amount of data, only some of which can be shared on this website, and our ongoing work will bring more of this to light in scholarly outputs in future months and years.
On this occasion we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone “behind the scenes” at King’s College London for making the project such a huge, and ongoing, success.  The support and dedication  of the following individuals is greatly appreciated:  From the Faculty of Humanities, Post-Award Processing Bureau: Hanna-Kristin Arro and Francesca Tambellino. Thank you also to Neil Partington, Senior Research Administrator in the Research Management Directorate. Thank you also to the staff of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, for their support. especially to Chelo Rodrigues, Research and Resources Manager.
A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to the success of this project, from Joan Taylor, Marcello Fidanzio and Dennis Mizzi, the Network partners, and from Sandra Jacobs, Network Facilitator and Researcher.

Newly Discovered Qumran Holding: World Museum Liverpool

The network team are delighted to report that following on from enquiries made by  Joan Taylor, of the Museums of Liverpool, the curator Ashley Cooke found in their collections a Dead Sea Scroll jar and lid, and also linen. These had been purchased on 8 May, 1951 by the Liverpool Public Museums from the Palestine Archaeological Museum (represented by Gerald Lankaster Harding) for the sum of £50.00. At that time the curator in Liverpool was British archaeologist, John Henry ‘Harry’ Iliffe (1903-1960), whose museum career included posts as head of Classical collections at the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto (1927-1931); the first keeper of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, now the Rockefeller Museum, in Jerusalem (1931-1948); and Director of Museums in Liverpool (1948-1959).

Kindly note that the above preliminary images, taken by Sandra Jacobs, include the  exterior profile of the jar, and are copyrighted by the Network for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Cave Artefacts and Archives. These photographs may not be used by others for publication purposes. We are currently trying to identify the precise textile, but clearly it is from Qumran Cave 1Q:

textiles_twoWe extremely grateful to Dr Ashley Cooke (featured in the main post photograph) for making the archival correspondence available to the network team to verify the authenticity of this acquisition, as well as his hospitality at the Museum’s off-site warehouse when Isabella Bossolino and Sandra Jacobs arrived from London to photograph and draw the jar and lid.

British Museum Jar and Lid – Documented 5 March 2019

The Network has had the opportunity to visit the British Museum holdings of Qumran Cave 1Q materials on two previous occasions, and we are grateful to curator Jonathan Tubb for his assistance when Joan Taylor took photographs and examined the objects. These consist of a jar and lid, and also fragments of textile. On Tuesday 5 March Isabella Bossolino, accompanied by Dr Sandra Jacobs, examined and made drawings of the Qumran Cave 1Q jar and lid purchased by the British Museum from the Jordanian government. On this occasion the team would particularly like to thank Dr Christos Gerontinis for taking time out to lift, position, and assist us throughout our study. Kindly note that preliminary images shown below  are copyrighted by the Network for the Study of Dispersed Qumran Cave Artefacts and Archives, and that they may not be used by others for publication purposes.

isabella 05 March 2019

How to find Qumran Cave 1Q

For visitors to Qumran, there is often the question: ‘Where were the first Dead Sea Scrolls found?’ If you look around at the hills they are dotted with caves, and at first sight they look remarkably similar. Which is the right one? We are grateful to Alexander Schick, who has supplied a photograph of the rocky escarpment where Cave 1Q is located, with a red arrow, so that visitors can find the location without a guide. To enable easier identification in historical archive photographs, we also include an ASOR image (cropped) where we have placed a red arrow to show the location of Cave 1Q.

NB Archaeologists  normally add ‘Q’ after ‘Cave 1’. The Q is for ‘Qumran’ and distinguishes it as a scrolls cave, as opposed to a non-scrolls cave which is referred to without a ‘Q’. In addition, all the caves in the Qumran vicinity were numbered in the survey of 1952 in a sequence, and Cave 1Q is actually Cave 14 in this series. The archaeologists and scrolls scholars surely had their reasons at the time for two different numeration systems, but it has led to confusion and continues to do so. The cave designated ‘Cave 1’ in the 1952 survey (with no scrolls in it) is actually further north.

ASOR1952-07WITHCAVE1QmarkedJTcrop
Cave 1Q lies just to the west of a large outcrop of rock and an open, squarish cave and is not easy to distinguish in the rocky slope unless you find these landmarks first. The full image of this picture (uncropped) appears in DJD III, Fig. 3 where a tiny black arrow (very hard to see) is meant to show where the cave is located, but the arrow points slightly too far to the left.
DSC_0817 S Dannat Schick Sylt
The rocky hill in which Cave 1Q is found as it is today. Image supplied to DQCAAS by Alexander Schick. All rights reserved.
DSC_0817 S Dannat b 1Q Schick Sylt
The location of Cave 1Q in the rocky hill, identified by Alexander Schick. Zoom in to see people on the slope, which helpfully give a sense of scale. Image supplied to DQCAAS by Alexander Schick. All rights reserved.
Image

Qumran at Seventy

Team members are delighted to share Dr Dennis Mizzi’s recent publication, “Qumran at Seventy,” which appeared in Strata: The Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Association (2017): 9-45. Many thanks to Dr David Milson, and the society’s editorial committee, for allowing the network to reproduce this article here: Mizzi_Qumran@70