In the 1950s, Dead Sea Scroll fragments thought to be blank were given to a British leather expert so he could study their chemical composition. Almost 70 years later, a professor has discovered they had writing on them all along. King's College London professor Joan Taylor says she spotted a small, extremely faded letter while examining one fragment with a magnifying glass, CBS reports. "Frankly, since all these fragments were supposed to be blank and had even been cut into for leather studies, I also thought I might be imagining things," she says. "But then it seemed maybe other fragments could have very faded letters too."
Taylor and colleagues taking part in a study at the University of Manchester—where the fragments had been kept in a box, largely untouched since they were donated to the institution—used multispectral imaging to determine that four of the 51 fragments had readable Hebrew/Aramaic text, the university said in a press release. "There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa," Taylor says. The most substantial fragment had 15 to 16 letters, including the word Shabbat, or Sabbath, which researchers believe is related to the Book of Ezekiel. (Read more Dead Sea scrolls stories.)