Scientists Virtually Unroll Scroll Turned to Charcoal in Fire
It contains evidence the modern Hebrew Bible may be 2,000 years old
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 21, 2016 5:46 PM CDT
The Ein Gedi scroll was reduced to charcoal in a fire 1,500 years ago. That didn't stop dedicated researchers from virtually unrolling it to read its contents.   (Israel Antiquities Authority via AP)

(Newser) – An ancient Jewish scroll reduced to charcoal in a fire 1,500 years ago along the shores of the Dead Sea has finally been read with the help of dedicated researchers and some impressive new technology, National Geographic reports. According to the AP, the so-called Ein Gedi scroll sat in storage for decades after its discovery in 1970 for fear any contact with it would destroy it. Scientists using a technique known as "virtual unwrapping" were able to "unroll" the scroll without actually touching it and read it in 2015, but they published their full findings Wednesday in Science Advances. To view the scroll's contents, researchers had to do extensive scanning and computer modeling, even piecing together more than 100 scanned sections by hand, Popular Archaeology reports.

The result is the first animal-skin scroll to be read fully after being heavily damaged. The Ein Gedi scroll, which contains text from the book of Leviticus, may date from as early as the first century, making it up to 500 years older than scientists initially believed in 2015. It also confirms that the modern version of the Hebrew Bible has been in use for approximately 2,000 years. Previously, the oldest evidence of the modern Hebrew Bible was from the eighth century. Researchers hope to use "virtual unwrapping" to read a number of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as scrolls destroyed in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. (This ancient pay stub shows workers were paid in beer.)