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Undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll Revealed by Invisible Writing

A new investigation of the Dead Sea Scrolls using NASA imaging technology found scrolls that contain some of the oldest “paleo-Hebrew” writing ever found in the collection of mysterious texts and point to the existence of a previously undiscovered scroll, something not found in the Qumran caves for 60 years. According to Haaretz, the writing found on the scroll was “invisible to the naked eye” and was therefore passed over during investigations before using patented NASA space-age technology. Besides pointing to a mysterious, undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll, the text contains evidence of a changing Psalm, and complaints about how the temple was being run.

The announcement was made this week by the Israel Antiquities Authority. The IAA says that by using “imaging technology invented by NASA,” they were able to decipher writing on the scrolls that had been invisible and unknown to even exist. They found fragments that did not seem to be a part of any of the other scrolls in the collection, leading researchers to conclude that an undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll exists, and it’s probably one of the very oldest written.

Undiscovered scrolls are probably inevitable. Last year, researchers discovered the 12th cave in Qumran, which appeared as if it would house an entire new set of scrolls. It turned out to have already been looted, and no scrolls were recovered. That’s a shame, because, although they have been deciphered and dated, we still don’t know exactly who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Dead Sea Scroll

The Dead Sea Scrolls are mostly fragmentary.

Any new scroll is hope for researchers that there may be answers to at least some of the many questions that still surround the mysterious Dead Sea Scrolls.

Part of the new discoveries is a third version of the Temple Scroll, which is a scroll describing either how the temple was run, or how it should be run. The new writing seems to differ slightly from the two other versions already found, mainly in that it was written in different handwriting. This leads researchers to believe that it may have been commentary on the state of temple business.

Dead Sea Scrolls Qumran Cave

Qumran cave, where the scrolls were first discovered.

The newly deciphered writings also contain a part of the Psalm 147 that had previously been missing: the beginning of the first verse. It turns out that it was a word shorter than the version used today. While not exactly earth-shattering,  it’s strange how little that it’s changed since the 1st century CE.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a curious area of archaeology. On one hand, it’s an incredibly intriguing find, and one that, if completely deciphered, could provide some glimmers of answers to some of humanity’s oldest questions. On the other hand, the scrolls are so mysterious and inscrutable that they currently raise more questions than they answer. As time passes since the initial 1940 discovery, there is a real possibility that some of these questions may never be answered, and the scrolls will remain a mystery.