3D Scanning Reads Charred Hebrew Old Testament Scrolls

What's in the Scroll?

When we think technology, we often think future.  In most people’s minds, technology is for new discovery, exploring the unknown, finding better and faster ways to do things. Technology has brought us computers, space travel, instant communication, medical cures, quicker transport, and the list goes on. What does technology have to do with the past? The past is past, right? Better put that hyperdrive in reverse Captain Kirk because some of today’s technologies are giving us a glance at the past. One of those technologies is 3D scanning services.  3D scanning is making it possible to read old scrolls of the past; ones that were impossible to read otherwise. One specific instance of this happened in Israel with an Old Testament Hebrew scroll.

3D Scanning in the Solution

About 45 years ago, in Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea, some old Hebrew scrolls were discovered. They were about 1500 years old, and in pretty bad condition.  So bad that they were deemed unreadable due to the fact that they were old and charred by fire. After they were excavated around the year 1970, no one was sure how it could be read or even preserved.  The hope is that whatever information was on the scroll could be recorded digitally so as to keep it preserved for the years to come. It wasn’t until a 3D scanning method was put on the task, that they were finally able to unlock the writing that was on the scroll.

What we know

There is really no way to know what caused the fire that burned the scroll, but by using 3D scanning services technology it was revealed what was printed on the scroll.  It turned out to be a portion of the Hebrew Torah, a book of the Old Testament, specifically a portion of the book of Leviticus which covers God’s instructions to Israel about required sacrifices.

The Content

The specific verses of the scrolls are Leviticus 1:1-8, which reads:

The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock.

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar;

Of course using 3D scanning services to unlock the mystery of the scroll, did not give us any new information into the past since we already have complete copies of the Hebrew Torah. It does though show us that the books of the Old Testament have not changed.  It is also fascinating that technologies like 3D scanning services can give us the ability to read old, burn documents.

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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