3D Scanning Helps Decipher Ancient Torah Scroll

Approximately 1500 years ago, a synagogue near the Dead Sea was burnt to the ground. Inside it, was a torah scroll.

In 1970, the Ein Gedi scroll was unearthed, burnt but still in is place in the northern wall.

However, due to its delicate state, it could not be unrolled to be read and deciphered.

Now, thanks to 3D scanning, researchers are getting their first glimpse of the text inside.

“The deciphering of the scroll, which was a puzzle for us for 45 years, is very exciting”, said Dr. Sefi Porath of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “Ein Gedi was a Jewish village in the Byzantine period (fourth–seventh century CE) and had a synagogue with an exquisite mosaic floor and a 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…We have no information regarding the cause of the fire, but speculation about the destruction ranges from Bedouin raiders from the region east of the Dead Sea to conflicts with the Byzantine government.”

Inside the scroll, researchers found the first eight verses of the Book of Leviticus, verses that talk about sacrifice.

Pnina Shor, curator and director of the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Projects pointed out the unlocking of the charred scrolls is important work.

“The knowledge that we are preserving the most important find of the 20th century and one of the Western world’s most important cultural treasures causes us to proceed with the utmost care and caution and use the most advanced technologies available today,” Shor said, stressing 3D technology helped decipher the mystery of the scroll.

Photo Credit: Charred scroll via IAA