By Rossella Tercatin, Jerusalem Post—
Some 2,000 years ago, an individual scribe wrote at least eight of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, making him the most prolific scribe ever identified, a group of scholars have found out.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a corpus of some 25,000 fragments unearthed in caves on the shores of the Dead Sea in the 1940s and 1950s. The artifacts include some of the most ancient manuscripts of the Bible, other religious texts that were not accepted in the canon and nonreligious writings.
In the past few years, can artificial intelligence-based paleographic project carried out by scholars at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and supported by the European Research Council has been focusing on understanding more about the identity of the scribes who copied the scrolls.
“We are pioneering Qumran research at the level of the individual scribe,” paleographer Gemma Hayes told The Jerusalem Post, after presenting the preliminary results of her research at an academic conference at Groningen last month.
“The main purpose of my work has been using artificial intelligence, an extraction algorithm and statistical analyses to test 51 manuscripts which share a particular handwriting style,” she added.
“It’s a very beautiful handwriting which dates back to the late 1st century BCE,” Hayes said.
The manuscripts analyzed by the researchers had already been grouped together in the past. Celebrated paleographer Ada Yardeni, who passed away in 2018, suggested that some 90 Dead Sea Scrolls fragments featuring this specific style were the work of one individual.
“She had a method, she identified the specific way a certain letter – a lamed – was written, and she argued that based on this letter you could group all these manuscripts together,” Hayes explained.
The researchers have not been able to test all of the manuscripts Yardeni clustered together because some of them did not present enough material for the technology to examine them.