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Letters invisible to naked eye discovered on Dead Sea Scrolls

Image: Dead Sea Scrolls
The Great Psalms Scroll together with the new fragment featuring Psalm 147:1. Copyright Shai Halevi/The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library
Copyright Shai Halevi/The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library
By Alice Tidey and Paul Goldman with NBC News World News
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The "small size and precarious physical state" meant some of them had not previously been sorted or deciphered.

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Technology originally developed for NASA has revealed letters invisible to the naked eye on fragments of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls, officials announced Tuesday.

The scrolls were discovered in the 1950s by archaeologists and Bedouin in caves near Qumran — on the West Bank near the Dead Sea — and include tens of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments that are thought to belong to approximately 1,000 different manuscripts.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said examinations of some fragments that had not previously been sorted or deciphered due to their "small size and precarious physical state" uncovered new script and pointed to the existence of an unknown manuscript.

One of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments is examined at the Israel Antiquities Authority\'s lab.
One of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments is examined at the Israel Antiquities Authority\'s lab.Shai Halevi/The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library

As part of a project to digitize the scrolls, researcher Oren Ableman examined a few dozen fragments and discovered "traces of ink on many fragments that appeared blank to the naked eye," the authority said in a statement.

One of those fragments could not be attributed to any known manuscripts, raising the possibility that it belongs to a still unknown text.

Other fragments have been identified as belonging to the Books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Jubilees.

One is from the Temple Scroll, while another has been identified as belonging to the Great Psalms Scroll.

The authority said the fragments "provide new insights" to researchers studying the scrolls.

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