One of Dead Sea Scrolls' Last Puzzles Is Cracked

Researchers decipher fragments of ancient coded text
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2018 5:58 PM CST
File photo of a portion of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.   (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gary Landers)

(Newser) – Israeli researchers say they have deciphered one of the last remaining puzzles of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It turns out the ancient authors of this particular section were writing about the changing of the seasons and the calendar they used to mark and celebrate such occasions, reports the Catholic News Agency. Two professors from Haifa University spent a year piecing together about 60 tiny fragments that had been written in code thousands of years ago, reports the BBC. The researchers concluded that the authors, possibly members of a desert sect known as the Essenes, were writing about a festival held four times a year to mark the new seasons, and they further determined that the name for this festival was "Tekufah," which means "period" in today's Hebrew.

One interesting tidbit: It seems that an ancient editor went over the manuscript after it was originally written and made corrections in the margins. "What's nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle—they showed me how to assemble the scroll," Haifa's Eshbal Ratson tells Haaretz. The researchers also were able to conclude that the sect used a 364-day calendar to mark the year, reports the Jerusalem Post. “Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day,” say the researchers. The professors found this to be "perfect." (Last year, researchers discovered what they believe to be another Dead Sea Scrolls cave, but looters beat them to it.)

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