Scientists Virtually Unwrap Severely Damaged Ancient En-Gedi Scroll

Posted on September 28, 2016

Scientists have used new digital scanning technology to virtually unwrap the ancient En-Gedi scroll. The scroll was unearthed in 1970 in archaeological excavations in the synagogue at En Gedi in Israel. This is the first severely damaged ink-based scroll to be unrolled and read in a noninvasive manner. The research was led by University of Kentucky Professor Brent Seales.

The scientists discovered and restored text on five complete wraps of the animal skin scroll. The scroll was revealed to be the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book – Leviticus. A research paper on the findings was published in Science Advances.

Seales says in a statement, "This work opens a new window through which we can look back through time by reading materials that were thought lost through damage and decay. There are so many other unique and exciting materials that may yet give up their secrets - we are only beginning to discover what they may hold. We are releasing all our data for the scroll from En-Gedi: the scans, our geometric analysis, the final texture. We think that the scholarly community will have interest in the data and the process as well as our results."

Virtual unwrapping reveals text within damaged objects by using software to analyze data obtained from high resolution scanning. Software is used to digitally segment, texture and flatten the scroll. Here is a video showing how the technique works:

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