It’s been 70 years since the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in a desert cave overlooking the Dead Sea near the ruins of Qumran. The value of that discovery has changed over the years as our understanding of the scrolls has changed. We discuss current perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls with Sidnie White Crawford, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and professor of the Hebrew Bible at the University of Nebraska.
We check in again with Brent Seales, chair of the computer science department at the University of Kentucky, for an update on his efforts to read ancient scrolls which are unreadable without a X-ray scan and his software to virtually unroll the scrolls. Professor Seales first got our attention a year and a half ago with the news that he had virtually unrolled a carbonized scroll of Leviticus, excavated in 1970 from a burned synagogue on the Dead Sea shore at Engedi.
At the time he took up the Leviticus scroll professor Seales had been at somewhat of a dead end on his efforts to read scrolls from the Villa of the Papyri, excavated a century and a half ago from Herculaneum. The ink on the scrolls was indistinguishable from the burned black papyri. But now professor Seales believes he’s found the solution to that problem, and it may well be that this ancient library, destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, is once again going to be available to interested readers.
One year later, we bring our listeners up to date on the latest from University of Kentucky Computer Science professor Brent Seales and his computer program for virtually opening unopenable ancient texts.
Further work has been done on the carbonized scroll from Engedi that we discussed a year ago, revealing its total contents are the first two chapters of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. New dating, based on the form of the letters in the text, reveals that this book is as old as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A few weeks ago we featured the first half of our 1988 interview with biblical scholar and Assyriologist Alan Millard. This week we have the second half of that interview, on the history of writing, which is closely tied to biblical peoples and the biblical world.