Archaeology in the News: Written in encrypted ancient Hebrew, one of the last unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls has finally been deciphered by a University of Haifa post-doctoral researcher. According to Dr. Eshbal Ratson, the almost impossible year-long mission was like “putting together a jigsaw puzzle — without knowing what was the picture.”
Using hi-tech images provided by the Israel Antiquity Authority’s Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, Ratson, 38, spent countless hours in front of her computer manipulating, deciphering and joining the 60 minuscule “puzzle pieces” which now form a comprehensive “calendrical scroll,” a document which outlines the intricate mathematical computations used by the Qumran sect to set the rhythm of their year and way of life.
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Researchers have deciphered one of the two remaining unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls, laying eyes on an ancient, secret code inscribed on parchment more than 2,000 years ago.
It wasn’t easy to do. Over the course of a year, scholars had to painstakingly reassemble over 60 tiny fragments of text, frayed into tatters over millennia.
To make things even harder, what was written on them wasn’t intended for just anyone to read – and had been encrypted in a long-forgotten cipher.
“The scroll is written in code, but its actual content is simple and well-known, and there was no reason to conceal it,” the researchers, Eshbal Ratson and Jonathan Ben-Dov from the University of Haifa in Israel, explain.