Scientists Decode One Of The Last Two Dead Sea Scrolls Revealing Ancient Secret Calendar

According to experts, one of the last two encrypted Dead Sea Scrolls, which have eluded decipherment for years, has been deciphered in Israel revealing an ancient secret calendar.

A group of experts has managed to finally decipher one of the last two Dead Sea Scrolls that had not been published.

An effort that has lasted a year carefully recomposing more than 60 small fragments of text, all frayed to pieces for millennia.

Image credit: Shutterstock

But if that wasn’t difficult enough, to make everything a little more complicated, the ancient manuscript was written in a way that suggests it was not meant for anyone to read it: it had been ‘coded’ under a type of old encryption. According to Eshbal Ratson, a researcher at the University of Haifa in Israel:

“The scroll is written in code, but its actual content is simple and well-known, and there was no reason to conceal it. This practice is also found in many places outside the Land of Israel, where leaders write in secret code even when discussing universally-known matters, as a reflection of their status.”

The deciphered manuscript reveals the existence of an exceptional 364-day calendar that was used by members of the Judean desert sect.

“The lunar calendar, which Judaism follows to this day, requires a large number of human decisions. People must look at the stars and moon and report on their observations, and someone must be empowered to decide on the new month and the application of leap years. By contrast, the 364-day calendar was perfect. Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day. This avoids the need to decide, for example, what happens when a particular occasion falls on the Sabbath, as often happens in the lunar calendar. The Qumran calendar is unchanging, and it appears to have embodied the beliefs of the members of this community regarding perfection and holiness,” the researchers explain.

The fragment deciphered by Dr. Eshbal Ratson and Prof Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University. Image Credit: University of Haifa. 

These Manuscripts–better known as Dead Sea Scrolls and named after the grottos located in the area of Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea, are a collection of 972 manuscripts dating back more than 2,000 years.

The stitched fragments, previously thought to belong to several different scrolls, reveal descriptions of the habits of the mysterious desert dwellers who authored the texts.

Historical Debate

Historians speak of nomads who were part of a kind of sect.

They referred to themselves as the Yahad (“Together”), which many believe was an ancient Jewish community called Essenes.

However, much of what is known (or believed to be known) about the authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls remain in a continuous debate.

The ancient texts, first discovered in caves 70 years ago by shepherds in a region of the West Bank, have fascinated historians since their discovery.

The ancient manuscripts include more than 900 scrolls containing some of the oldest inscriptions of the Hebrew Bible, which paved the way for the Christian Old Testament.

Featured image credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

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