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computerized microtomographies

Microtomography virtually unwraps a biblical scroll

Intact scroll “unwrapped” through microtomography; the intact scroll is shown to the right of the coin

University of Kentucky Intact scroll “unwrapped” through microtomography; the intact scroll is shown to the right of the coinUniversity of Kentucky

Digitally enhanced X-ray images made it possible to decode a fragile scroll written in Hebrew that had been carbonized around 600 A.D. (Science Advances, September 2016). The document, which would readily crumble if touched, was discovered in 1970 by archeologists working in En-Gedi, an oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea, in Israel. En-Gedi was home to a large Jewish community for almost 14 centuries, until fire destroyed it in the late sixth century. This animal-skin parchment and other scrolls were found inside a holy ark in a synagogue. Researchers from the University of Kentucky and from Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, passed the parchment through a micro-CT scanner to produce three-dimensional images, called computerized microtomographies, and then processed the images through a sequence of steps that converted them to two dimensions. According to the researchers, it was as if they were virtually unwrapping the document. Written in Hebrew, the scroll contains an excerpt from Leviticus, one of the first five books of the Old Testament, or Pentateuch. The parchment is the second-oldest Pentateuchal manuscript in Hebrew. The first is the collection of texts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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