The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are among the oldest extant biblical manuscripts, have been a topic of interest since they were discovered in the Qumran Caves in the West Bank beginning in 1946.
More recently, Israeli scholars have pieced together some of the last fragments of the ancient documents, revealing new information about the scrolls.
Dr. Eshbal Ratson and Professor Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University decoded 60 previously unread fragments over the course of a year to discover a festival marking each changing season which was celebrated by the Jews. The researchers also found the name for the festival: the Hebrew word “tekufah,” meaning “period.”
These fragments, some of which were smaller than a centimeter, identified the seasonal celebrations, which included the festivals of New Wheat, New Wine, and New Oil, which are linked to the Jewish festival of Shavuot. These celebrations were based on the 364-day Jewish calendar.
Additionally, the researchers found that a second scribe made additional notes on the scroll, correcting some mistakes and omissions made by the original author. According to Ratzon, these notes made it easier for them to decode the ancient scrolls.
“What’s nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle — they showed me how to assemble the scroll,” said Ratzon, according to the BBC.
While it is not known who penned the ancient texts, some have attributed them to the Essenes — a Jewish sect who lived in the desert. The scrolls, around 900 in number, contain Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic writing, and are thought to date to between 300 BC and AD 100.
According to The Telegraph, a statement from Haifa University said that both Ratson and Ben-Dov have moved on to decoding the last remaining scroll.