Science

AI algorithm helps unravel one of the secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Segment of the Great Scroll of Isaiah – © Ardon Bar Hama / Israel Museum

Artificial intelligence recently helped solve a long-standing mystery, revealing that one of the Dead Sea Scrolls was written by two very similarly handwriting scribes, not just one person.

Tiny variations

Set of ancient texts, manuscripts of Qumran were originally discovered in caves on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in the middle of the 20th century. In the context of work published in the journal PLoS One, Mladen Popović and his colleagues fromUniversity of Groningen, to the Netherlands, specifically looked at the Great Scroll of Isaiah, copy of the book of the same name found in both the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament. Completed about two centuries BC, it was written in Hebrew.

Before the discovery of these manuscripts, we had practically only medieval documents dating from the year 1000 to study the ancient history of this text. The Dead Sea Scrolls are like a time capsule “, Explain Popović. ” These scrolls take us back to when the Hebrew Bible was still being written and offer us a unique behind-the-scenes perspective on its conception.. “

Due to very similar writing on the 7 meters of the parchment, researchers have so far not been able to determine whether the Great Scroll of Isaiah was the work of one or more scribes. To solve this mystery, Popović and his colleagues relied on artificial intelligence to analyze the digital images of the manuscript. The neural network used revealed variations in the shape and style of the characters undetectable to the naked eye, revealing that the two halves of the parchment were written by different people.

Each letter aleph and beth (first characters of the Hebrew alphabet) present in the Great Scroll of Isaiah has been carefully analyzed by the AI ​​- © Maruf A. Dhali / University of Groningen

If the use of artificial intelligence proved necessary to confirm that the document was the work of two different scribes, it is in part because the writing styles were found to be extremely close, and could have been the result with a simple change of stylus halfway through the document », Comments Charlotte hempel, of the’Birmingham University.

A possible common formation for the scribes

According to the study’s authors, this new discovery raises the fascinating question of whether such a degree of similarity between writing styles is a sign of a peerless professional, capable of ” agree With another hand, or a common training environment.

This is very exciting, as it opens a new window into the ancient world that can reveal much more complex connections between the scribes who produced these scrolls. “, valued Popović. ” In this study, we found evidence of a very similar writing style shared by the two scribes of the Great Scroll of Isaiah, suggesting a common background or origin. Future analysis of the remaining Dead Sea Scrolls may tell us more about this.. “

Last March, Israeli archaeologists announced the discovery of a 2,000-year-old biblical parchment in the desert of Judaea, seventy years after that of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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