Science of the Scrolls; How Far-Reaching Technologies Help Researchers Unshroud the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Kohn, Risa Levitt, ROM Magazine
Long shrouded in mystery, the precise meaning and origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls elude us still. Science and technology are light years ahead of where they were when the first scrolls were discovered in 1947, and new research methods, tools, and technologies have deepened our understanding of the scrolls by unlocking more and more information. Even so, key questions remain unanswered: Who wrote the scrolls? Where were they written? Which fragments belong together? And, perhaps most pressing, can we halt their relentless decomposition? Herewith, a tour through some of science's best tools for investigating these questions.
A Good Year for Dating
As fortune would have it, a scientist named Willard Libby developed the carbon-14 dating method in 1949--just two years after the first scrolls were discovered. This method, also called radiocarbon dating, can accurately date biological matter up to 60,000 years old. In 1960, Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this discovery.
Thanks to carbon-14, we've been able to date the Dead Sea Scrolls, most of which are made from goat skin. The element carbon is the building block that makes life possible. There are several types, or isotopes, of carbon. C-12 is stable, but C-14 is radioactive and decays slowly, becoming nitrogen-14 over time. As long as an organism is alive and well, the proportion of C-12 to C-14 remains stable. However, as soon as an organism …
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Publication information: Article title: Science of the Scrolls; How Far-Reaching Technologies Help Researchers Unshroud the Mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Contributors: Kohn, Risa Levitt - Author. Magazine title: ROM Magazine. Volume: 42. Issue: 1 Publication date: Summer 2009. Page number: 22+. © 2009 Royal Ontario Museum Governors. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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