Protons for studying the Dead Sea Scrolls

Jul 02, 2010

Researchers of the National Laboratories of the South (LNS) in Catania of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN, Italy's National Institute for Nuclear Physics) have shed light on the origin of one of the extraordinary Dead Sea Scrolls.

It is a collection of about 900 documents discovered half a century ago in various caves near the Dead Sea and constituting the oldest known biblical texts, dating back to the period from about 100-200 B.C. to several decades after the birth of Christ. This finding was made possible by the combined use of a new system of analysis known as "XPIXE", patented by the INFN National Laboratories of the South, and a located at the same facility.

The results of the analyses were presented yesterday, 1 July 2010, by Professor Giuseppe Pappalardo of the INFN, at the PIXE 2010 Conference in Surrey, Great Britain.

The analyses, which were conducted by INFN physicists in collaboration with researchers from IBAM-CNR, have revealed that one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in particular, the Temple Scroll (which is not part of the biblical narration and instead describes the construction and life of a temple and dictates how laws are to be communicated to the people), may have been made near the Dead Sea, in the area of Qumran, where the scrolls were found. In other words, the scrolls may have been created locally.

The analyses were conducted on seven small samples of the scrolls (average size of one square centimetre), following a request made by Dr. Ira Rabin of BAM (Bundesanstalt fur Materialforschung) in Berlin. The scrolls belong to the Shrine of the Book of the Israel Museum and the Ronald Reed Collection of the John Rylands University Library.

At the LANDIS laboratory (one of the INFN laboratories in Catania), non-destructive analyses were performed to obtain results on the origin of the scrolls. To produce a scroll, which was the writing material used at the time, a great quantity of water is needed. By analysing water samples taken in the area where the scrolls were found, the presence of certain chemical elements was established, and the ratio of their concentrations was determined.

The ratio of chlorine to bromine in the fragments of the Temple Scroll was then analysed using proton beams of 1.3 MeV, produced by the Tandem particle accelerator at the INFN National Laboratories of the South.

According to this analysis, the ratio of chlorine to bromine in the scroll is consistent with the ratio in local water sources. In other words, this finding supports the hypothesis that the scroll was created in the area in which it was found. The next step in the research will be to analyse the ink used to write the scrolls.

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dead Sea Scrolls scientists dies

Oct 27, 2005

Archaeologist Robert Johnston of Brighton, N.Y. -- an archaeologist who helped develop a way to read ancient texts -- has died. He was 77.

Piecing together the Medieval Middle East

Apr 10, 2006

An important collection of ancient Jewish and Arabic documents, equal in significance to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and discovered as fragments in an old storeroom, has received a major grant for its upkeep. The Taylor-Schechter ...

Lead from a Roman ship to be used for hunting neutrinos

Apr 16, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics, at its laboratories in Gran Sasso, has received 120 lead bricks from an ancient Roman ship that sunk off of the coast of Sardinia 2,000 years ago. The ship's ...

Physics discovers the secrets of Saint Francis

Sep 07, 2007

The tunic believed to have been worn by Saint Francis of Assisi preserved in the Church of Saint Francis in Cortona (Province of Arezzo) dates back to the period in which the saint lived, whereas the tunic preserved in the ...

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

4 hours ago

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.