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Postby admin » Fri Nov 25, 2022 3:06 am

Israel Faking it: The discovery that ancient artefacts sacred to Jewish history are forgeries has sent shockwaves through the museum world. But was the gang behind the scam only interested in cash, or did they have other motives?
Rachel Shabi @rachshabi
The Guardian
Thu 20 Jan 2005 07.09 EST



It started with the pomegranate and ended with a stash of fake Bible-era artefacts. Photo: AP. [A Hebrew inscription is engraved around the shoulder of the thumb-[thumbnail-]size pomegranate that reads, “Holy to the priests, (belonging) to the Temple of [Yahwe]h.”]

Surendra Kumar Apharya Who Can Write 1,749 Characters on Just a Single Grain of Rice!
by Mayuraxee Barman
September 10, 2019

There are many students who are expert in miniature writing and they showcase this talent while cheating in their exams by writing as many answers as possible on a small chit of paper. Maybe some of them are even reading this article right now. So what do you think how many characters can you write on a small piece of paper – 300? 500? or maybe if you really have some talent somehow 800?

There is a man named Surendra Kumar Apharya who can write 1,749 characters on just a single grain of rice! Yes, you have read it right.

"OMG! Ye Mera India."

If you think that it is the most shocking thing you have ever heard then hold your breath because the next fact will just blow your mind, he has also made a world record of writing 249 characters on a human hair.

"Yes! Human hair!"

This man did not just stop there, he has even written Nehru Ji’s three speeches on a 19.6mm x 17.8mm postage stamp.

"Mr. Nehru's three lectures and his thoughts"

Mr. Surendra Kumar Apharya, who belongs from Jaipur, Rajasthan has written the names of 168 countries and regions on a single grain of rice. He has made all Indians proud of his very unique talent for which he holds a world record in the Guinness Book for more than 25 years now.

Such a talent comes with a lot of patience and hard work. He does regular yoga to make his hands more stable. He can also hold his breath for 2mins straight. These two qualities are very important to write on a small surface.

"That's the reason he learnt Yoga as well."

Surendra Kumar Apharya’s dream is to write The Bhagabhat Gita or The Bible on a 1mm surface or less.

Geeta or Quran or Bible.

What this man does is even unimaginable for us. Doing something so unique which requires so much patience proves how passionate he is about miniature writings. Let us all salute this man who has made a mark in the history of the world in a unique way.

It all started with the pomegranate. On Christmas Eve, the Israel museum in West Jerusalem made an announcement about a tiny ivory pomegranate that had been on display at the museum since 1988, believed to have come from the First Temple of Israel. The pomegranate, the museum sheepishly revealed, was actually a fake. It was still a very old and beautiful carving, but the inscription denoting its First Temple origins had been forged.

Five days later, the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) declared that it had uncovered a sophisticated forgery ring, based in Israel, which had produced a stash of fake Bible-era artefacts.

At the end of 2004, antiquities collector Oded Golan was put on trial. He was accused, along with others, of forging the inscription, as well as fabricating and attempting to sell many other fake antiquities. These included the James Ossuary (supposedly the bone box of Jesus' brother); ancient pottery with inscriptions; a stone menorah attributed by some to the high priest in the Second Temple; a tiny ivory pomegranate, with an inscription, that was thought to be the only existing artifact that had been used in the First Temple, and which was displayed for many years at the Israel Museum. Also determined to be a forgery was a quartz platter with an inscription in an ancient Egyptian language, which ostensibly showed that the ancient city of Megiddo was conquered by a commander of King Shishak. The inscription presumed to solve the question occupying many scholars regarding the identity of the destroyer of Megiddo.

-- The art of authentic forgery, by Nadav Shragai

The famous Ivory Pomegranate Inscription: Is it a forgery or authentic? You decide. And let us know your decision.
Get ready to experience the excitement of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!—where the unbelievable comes alive right before your eyes! Visit any one of Ripley’s 29 museums around the world to marvel at hundreds of unusual artifacts and get hands on with amazing interactives.

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A Hebrew inscription is engraved around the shoulder of the thumb-size pomegranate that reads, “Holy to the priests, (belonging) to the Temple of [Yahwe]h.”

For decades the tiny object occupied a special place in Jerusalem’s prestigious Israel Museum—the only surviving relic from Solomon’s Temple.

The pomegranate was first seen in 1979 in a Jerusalem antiquities shop by one of the world’s leading Semitic epigraphers, André Lemaire of the Sorbonne. Based on a lifetime of experience and a careful examination, he pronounced the inscription authentic. It was also examined by Professor Nahman Avigad of The Hebrew University, then Israel’s most respected epigrapher, who wrote that “I am fully convinced of ... the authenticity of its inscription ... [T]he epigraphic evidence alone, in my opinion, is absolutely convincing.”

With these assurances, in 1989 the Israel Museum acquired the pomegranate for $550,000.
All Israel was excited. On the day the pomegranate went on display in a special room of the museum with a narrow light beaming on it from the ceiling, the exhibit was the first item on the evening news in Israel.

In 2004, after two widely publicized inscriptions had been declared forgeries by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the museum decided to revisit the question of the authenticity of the Pomegranate Inscription. A special committee was appointed to reexamine the inscription, using the latest scientific technologies. The committee concluded that the inscription was a forgery!

-- Is This Inscription Fake? You Decide, by Hershel Shanks

In addition to the pomegranate, it revealed that two other objects, both similarly revered, had also been rumbled as bogus. One was a limestone ossuary box said to have held the bones of James, the brother of Jesus, and supposedly the oldest physical link to the New Testament. The other was a stone tablet, from the ninth century BC, inscribed in ancient Hebrew with instructions by King Joash for maintaining Solomon's Temple.

The revelation sent shockwaves around the world of antiquities, as museums were warned to expect more precious relics to be revealed as fakes. "We only discovered the tip of the iceberg. This spans the globe. It generated millions of dollars," warned Shuka Dorfman, director of the IAA. Museums were urged to examine all objects of suspicious origin; the forgery ring, the IAA cautioned, spanned 20 years.

So what tipped off the investigators? "We got some information in September 2002 about a stone with an inscription about the third temple of Joash in Jerusalem," says Amir Ganor, head of investigations at the IAA. "This stone would be very important to the Jewish people and to the antiquities community." At that point the investigators were looking for a rumoured relic, not a forgery. Informers said that it had been offered to several institutions, including the Israel museum. "We heard that some guy, ex-Shin Bet [the Israeli security service], had been showing the stone, but we didn't know anything more," says Ganor.

The IAA eventually discovered the identity of the former security service man (How? "Using our methods," says Ganor), who in turn led them to Oded Golan, a leading Israeli collector and one of the five men alleged by the IAA to be part of the forgery ring.
Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper describes Golan as a 51-year-old production engineer, based in Tel Aviv, who has worked in engineering, tourism, real estate, and who now describes himself as the "head of a of a hi-tech company". He told the IAA that he collects antiquities as a hobby, and has been doing so since the age of 14. A search of Golan's home took place in February 2003. "We found a lot of documents about the stone, and pictures, but not the stone itself," says Ganor. "Oded said that he was not the owner, but was representing some Arab guy." One month later, threatened with another search warrant for another of his premises, Golan handed over the stone.

It was not the first time he had come in contact with the IAA. Back in October 2002, the authority had issued Golan with a licence to take an ossuary ("just an ossuary, not an important ossuary," says Ganor) to the Montreal museum in Canada. Soon after giving him approval, the IAA got a phone call from CNN asking about the remarkable inscription on top of the stone, apparently reading: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

The IAA, realising that it had granted an approval licence for a potentially very special artefact, requested that Golan hand over the relic upon its return from Canada, which he did in March 2003. Now the authority had the stone and the ossuary, both of which were checked and found to be fakes. What's more, the method of forgery in both cases was the same -- the patina on each object had been artificially contrived. At this point, the authority launched its fraud investigation with the police, having for some time heard rumours of more fakes on the market.

The IAA paid another visit to Golan, who had been given back his ossuary. This time, says Ganor, the IAA "found all the evidence for the fraud process, all the materials, all the patinas, some artefacts in the process of being forged". The ossuary was found on the flat rooftop of Golan's rented apartment, in the toilet. "He said it was the safest place to put it," says Ganor. "This is the ossuary that millions of Christians have been speaking about ... and that was insured for $1m when it was sent to Canada."

The investigation has so far named four men, in addition to Golan, whom it alleges were involved, among them Robert Deutsch, an inscriptions expert who teaches at Haifa University, and Rafael Braun, former head of the antiquities laboratories at the Israel museum. "We have found a key witness who told us that [he was asked] to prepare thousands of artefacts," says Ganor. He adds that witnesses have mentioned possible fakes at British, American and German institutions.
Golan, meanwhile, has insisted: "There is not one grain of truth in the fantastic allegations related to me," while Deutsch has pronounced the indictment "ridiculous".

The story gets cloudy where the pomegranate enters. The Israel museum bought this relic in 1988, paying $550,000 (£287,000) into a numbered Swiss bank account. For more than 20 years, it has been hailed as the only surviving physical evidence of the First Temple. This temple is the holiest of holies in Jewish tradition; it is said to be where Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. (The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is the western wall of the Second Temple, built on the site of the first in the sixth century BC). Scholars thought that the thumbnail-sized fruit, which has a hole in the bottom, was used as the top of a temple priest's sceptre.

The pomegranate is a high-profile example of a relic acquired "through the market", meaning that it was not uncovered during a licensed excavation. Such objects carry no official documentation denoting their origin. The theory is that they come from looted sites.
"The pomegranate surfaced a number of years before it was acquired and displayed here," says James Snyder, director at the Israel museum. "It was examined by a lot of scholars, and it wasn't accepted into our collection until it had the consensus of all available experts that it was authentic." Snyder says that there is always a question mark over the authenticity of an object acquired through the market, but nonetheless, some 10% of the museum's 70,000 antiquities come from this channel. Why? "Because the objects are very special, and so they can be placed in a museum setting and benefit the public. You wouldn't want to miss that opportunity."

Unless, of course, the object is a fake. The museum insists that the pomegranate was found to be a forgery through its own investigation, independent of the IAA. However, one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that this is rubbish. "The authority heard about the pomegranate from a witness in the investigation," he says, adding that the museum was asked to take the relic to the IAA but refused, negotiating instead to conduct its own analysis. Such analysis revealed that the pomegranate dates from the Bronze period - 3,400 years ago and long before the First Temple period. The temple-specific inscription was added to the fruit recently but it was the relic's patina - older than the first temple period - that gave the game away.

Commentators have suggested that the museum might not have been sufficiently scrupulous with the fruit relic over the years but Snyder insists that analysis methods have recently developed in one significant direction: "Until a few years ago, we would have had to remove a piece of the pomegranate in order to scan it," he says. "We did not want to do that."

What this episode shows is the extent to which the antiquities community has laid itself open to abuse. According to Israel Finkelstein, archaeology professor at Tel Aviv university, most biblical land has been officially and rigorously excavated and produced few relics. "Do you want me to believe that robbers are then going with a flashlight at night and managing to find 50 inscriptions? Of course I don't believe it."

Still, the sale of marketplace antiquities is booming. Aren Maeir, archaeology professor at Bar Ilan university in Ramat Gan, describes it as "an astounding market, particularly among private collectors with millions of dollars at their disposal". Objects can sell for $1m apiece, and academics say that top forgers hunt academic journals for the objects that would be considered significant if unearthed, and then sneak fake finds into the market -- giving the antiquity community exactly what it wants. "There is an eagerness all over the world, in museums, to display antiquities of great value," says Finkelstein, "and there is no question that some of them were not careful enough in their [evaluation] methods. It was some sort of naivety, something about wanting to believe."

The discovery of a Temple-era pomegranate, in particular, was always going to provoke excitement. The pomegranate is a deeply resonant fruit in Judaism that, according to the Bible, was used as a decorative motif in Solomon's temple. There is a Rabbinic reference to its seeds, which in legend always number 613 -- one for each of the commandments of the Bible. One Israel museum press officer explains the effect of seeing such relics: "It is very exciting, very emotional, very Jewish feelings," she says. "Any time you see something like this, it feels very special because you can see your roots."

It underlines the intense political significance that antiquities, particularly Biblical-era artefacts, attain in Israel, where discoveries of ancient sites or relics can be claimed by particular groups as proof of their historic claim to a particular piece of land. Early Zionism was enthusiastic in promoting Bible-era relics -- they cemented the Jewish connection to the land, and were seen to give credence to the new state of Israel: ancient facts on the ground, if you like. It is telling, suggests Dr Shimon Gibson, archaeology professor at the Albright Institute, Jerusalem, that the Joash stone emerged at around the same time -- early 2003 -- that Palestinian leaders were becoming more vociferous over the "alleged" Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. The stone's inscription describes repair works to the Jewish temple at Jerusalem. "Those who forged, if that is what they did, would be trying to identify key spots of interest to Israel at that moment," he says. "One of those is, of course, the Temple Mount, because in any deal made with the Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem and who controls the holy places is one of the key things that will be on the table."

Some have argued that the only way to stop antiquity fraud is to properly ban the sale of objects with unknown provenance. Others, such as Snyder, counter that this would serve only to bury precious artefacts in the hands of private collectors, not evaluated by experts and not appreciated by the public.

Meanwhile, no one can say how many more relics from the world's great museums will be rumbled as fakes. Snyder says that the Israel museum is alert to the investigation, but it clearly wants to move on, celebrate its 40th birthday and show off its other collections -- including the Dead Sea scrolls. The museum plans to turn its misfortune with the pomegranate into an opportunity to mount a display on antiquity dating methods. On my way out of his office, Snyder hands me a lemon, from a basket on his desk. He tells me that they come from his own garden; he also grows pomegranates.
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Postby admin » Sat Nov 26, 2022 5:21 am

Beyond the Scribal Error: Clues on the History of Philodemus' On Rhetoric, Book 1
by Federica Nicolardi

From Defining Authorship, Debating Authenticity: Problems of Authority from Classical Antiquity to the Renaissance
Edited by Roberta Berardi, Martina Filosa, and Davide Massimo
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston


The particular composition of the library in the Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum led scholars in the past to believe in the existence of autographs among the carbonized scrolls.1 In particular, the presence of copies reflecting different editorial stages of Philodemus' works suggested the identification of his personal library in that in the Villa, as well as the identification of the manus Philodemi in some provisional editions of his works.2 Although these theories have been gradually put aside, modern scholars still question the differences between provisional and fair copies in the collection. Double copies of the same work in the library in the Villa usually differ in their subscriptio: Philodemus' On Rhetoric Book 2, for example, has been preserved in two different rolls, whose final parts -- the so-called midolli -- can be found in P. Herc. 1672 and 1674; in the end title of P. Herc. 1674, after the genitive [x] we simply find the title of the work, [x], whereas in the subscriptio to P. Herc. 1672 after the author's name we can read the expression [x]. The meaning of the term [x] in the end titles of the Herculaneum papyri is still debated.3 A milestone in this question is represented by the palaeographical survey conducted on the Herculaneum papyri by G. Cavallo. Following the analysis of formal features of the rolls, especially handwriting and text layout, he concluded that the term [x], which we find in rolls where he detected inelegant handwriting and irregular layout, can only refer to a provisional copy, intended for a limited circulation.4

The greatest difficulty in the interpretation of this term arises from the re-reading of the subscriptio to P. Herc. 1427, which preserves the last ten columns of the only surviving copy of Philodemus' On Rhetoric Book I. The end title of this papyrus had been long read as follows: [x]. In line with the absence of the term [x] and in the light of the 'tecniche librarie e grafiche accurate' which can be observed in P. Herc. 1427, Cavallo did not spot any substantial differences between this papyrus and those who preserve definitive editions.' In 1995 D. Delattre, by rereading the subscriptio in the original papyrus, correctly identified the term [x] instead of the genitive [x]; the correct reading of the end title of this roll being [x].6 Nevertheless, the non-inelegant handwriting and the regular layout of the text in this papyrus would seem to be in conflict with the identification of a provisional copy. From this difficulty some new interpretations of the term [x] have arisen. To mention just one of the most interesting views, T. Dorandi, partially in line with Cavallo, has claimed that the previous editions of On Rhetoric Books 2 and 3 (and presumably also the previous edition of Book 1) were intended for limited circulation in the school, whereas the definitive editions were intended for publication. Furthermore, according to Dorandi, the provisional copies would already have in themselves a definitive text and they would exclusively differ from the fair copies with respect to the formal characteristics of the rolls.7

Throughout the study of the text in On Rhetoric Book 1, the analysis of the corrective interventions has turned out to be particularly interesting in order to shed some light on the editorial stage of the surviving copy. It is well worth making some clarifications about this roll; every remark regarding formal features such as handwriting, text layout, corrective interventions, must necessarily derive from the observation of the final part of the roll, the midollo, P. Herc. 1427, that is the only extant part obtained by continuous unrolling by means of Piaggio's machine. By the time of this mechanical opening, in 1786, most of the original volumen, i.e. circa 95% of the total extent, had already been removed by the so-called scorzatura. This opening method, when used as a preliminary step to prepare a roll for Piaggio's machine, consisted of making cuts along the length of the volumen, in order to free the so-called midollo from its external parts, which were the most damaged and difficult to open. The scorze were then put aside: this caused the loss of connection between the midollo and the corresponding scorze, which were inventoried separately and later opened by scraping off the layers.8 Moreover, this scraping led to the complete loss of each layer, except for the ultimo foglio, that is to say the last leaf: once the 'unrollers' (svolgitori) had transcribed the text they could see, by drawing it they scraped it off in order to reveal the layer below. As a consequence, most of the roll has been lost or only preserved in drawings, with the only exception of the midollo P. Herc. 1427 which, in spite of its small extent (just over 80 cm), allows for some interesting remarks. In the midollo I have identified more than 40 corrective interventions. This number is particularly relevant if we take into account the small amount of text preserved in this papyrus (8 entire and 2 partial columns).

Corrections have been mostly made by the main scribe, sometimes by an editor of the text, whom I identified due to his different -- sloping and sometimes more cursive -- handwriting.9 The most frequent errors are mechanical ones; the scribe has often skipped some text portions, which have been restored -- by him or by the editor -- supra lineam, in the upper or lower margin, or in the intercolumnium; we can also find numerous incorrect word endings, since adjectives, participles, and nouns often erroneously agree with the preceding word. Most of the time the scribe has immediately noticed these oversights and corrected them in scribendo: it is clear from the fact that the correct sequence appears within the line, immediately after the mistaken one, which is deleted.10 Just to mention an evident example of correction in scribendo, in col. 3 ll. 11-13 Sudhaus11 (Fig.

1) the scribe, instead of writing the adverb [x] with which a new sentence begins, has written the participle [x], probably because of the presence of the accusative [x] right before it:12


As soon as he realized the error, he did not just replace the wrong sequence [x] with [x], but he decided to delete the entire word (by means of dots above the letters and a horizontal stroke) and to leave a vacuum before writing the correct word, in order to mark the end of the sentence before the adverb. This shows that the scribe is very interested in clarity, even if making comprehensible corrections may represent an uneconomic use of space.

As for the editorial history of the text, some interventions, which can hardly be recognized as corrections of non-mechanical errors, have turned out to be the most interesting.

1. In the penultimate column of the text (col. 6 1. 13 Sudhaus, Fig. 2),13 it is possible to read the infinitive [x], in which the sigma is added supra lineam and the theta is written over a pre-existing tau: the text ante correctionem must have been [x]. The correction is required by the presence of a verbum dicendi at 1. 10, which governs [x]. Because of the form of the letters and the corrective modalities used, the intervention seems attributable to the main scribe and so it was probably made not long after the first copying of the text. In this particular case, we may perhaps think of a mechanical error; however -- unless we imagine that the scribe controlled the text on the antigraph, possibility which obviously cannot be excluded for this case and for the following ones -- the correction would have required significant attention to the syntax, which seems hardly attributable to the awareness of the scribe, although he is materially responsible for the intervention. 

2. Another -- albeit more complex -- syntactic modification is in coll. 21. 39-2 l. 2 Sudhaus (Fig. 3),14 where the expression [x] occurs. By the observation both of the papyrus and of the Oxonian drawing (disegno) in which the column is reproduced, the presence of many deleted letters is immediately evident. While the text post correctionem is easily readable, the text ante correctionem is harder to recognize, since the traces of ink by means of which the letters are deleted cover them up almost totally. The first deleted letter is easily readable: it is an epsilon, clearly due to diplography ([x] instead of [x]); this mechanical error is not relevant to the present analysis. By comparing the papyrus to the disegno it is possible to notice that in the former we can partly glimpse the form of the deleted letters and that the disegnatore was not always able to distinguish the ink used by the scribe to trace the pre-existing letters from the ink used to delete them. After the eta two other letters are deleted, which in the disegno may seem [x]. By looking at the papyrus under the microscope it is possible to identify the lower parts of these two letters, which do not coincide with those drawn with uncertainty by the disegnatore: a vertical trace followed by an oblique descending rightwards from mid-height; a round outline at the bottom left of the following letter. These traces are compatible with [x]. After alpha, an ascending trace slightly oblique is what is left from another deleted letter; this trace is covered up with an ink circle, that the disegnatore confused with the body of a phi (which would be too small and high, though). It is possible, therefore, that the text ante correctionem was [x] and that the scribe was actually writing [x]. The my, only partially traced, would be the last letter written by him before he stopped and made the correction ([x]). In this section of Book 1 Philodemus is talking about the possibility, claimed by some, to consider as a perfect expert of rhetorical art ([x]) the one who has practised all the rhetorical [x], i.e. all the rhetorical genres. If my hypothesis on the intervention is correct, it will be remarkable that the expression ante correctionem, with the active verb [x] governing an object ([x]), does not substantially differ in meaning from the middle form [x] taking the dative [x]. The transition from one form to the other seems to represent a stylistic improvement rather than a mere correction and this does not enable to consider this intervention as conceived by the scribe.

Other interventions reveal lexical modifications, of which I offer here two examples.

I. In fr. 4 ll. 3-5 Sudhaus (Fig, 4), Philodemus is introducing a distinction between [x] based on their different need for natural ability, practice and method: [x] ... 15 The sequence [x] is written supra lineam and replaces some letters deleted by means of a horizontal stroke. By observing the disegno, the deleted sequence may seem [x], but if we look at the papyrus it is possible to understand that the disegnatore was not able to detect the horizontal stroke and that he reproduced only its final part, which looks like the middle stroke of eta: the correct deleted sequence is [x] ([x]). Therefore, the text ante correctionem was [x], which is unlikely to be considered as a mechanical error, unless we imagine a confusing state of this passage in the antigraph, perhaps with variants or unclear corrections. The term [x] is attested in Phld. Poem. I. P. Herc. 460 col. 125 l. 3 Janko, and here it would not be out of context, since it refers to a 'division', 'classification'.

2. In col. 61. 34 Sudhaus (Fig. 5),16 the multispectral images and the observation of the papyrus under modern microscopes make it possible to read more than what is reproduced in the disegno and published in the previous editions. As for the text resulting from the correction, in 1872 Gomperz had already correctly identified the genitive [x].17 Part of this word, the sequence [x] is written supra lineam above deleted letters. Philodemus is talking about weak argumentations and, before leaving this theme in order to conclude the book, he claims that many other defects spread out through deductive argumentations ([x]), but then adds that there is no point in insisting on their weaknesses, since they are immediately evident. As for the text ante correctionem, the first deleted letter is certainly a my; looking at the second one, only its right part survives, an oblique trace descending from left to right, compatible with a my: after this incomplete letter the sequence ov is deleted. Therefore, the text ante correctionem was probably a form of the term [x], with the meaning of 'coherence', 'permanence' ([x]) . As in the previous cases, neither the error (the term [x] instead of [x]) nor the emendation can be easily attributed to the scribe's full awareness. Plural forms of [x] are not usual and it is not possible to immediately clarify what the text ante correctionem could have meant. The reference, which I have mentioned, to 'insistence', 'perseverance' in the sequent line may be of interest, although the term used there is [x].

The corrective interventions presented above have a relevant common characteristic, which I have already underlined: although the scribe actually and concretely made the corrections, the conceptual responsibility for the interventions cannot be attributed to him. We find syntactic modifications as well as stylistic improvements, which were carried out during the drafting of the copy or not much later and which reveal in some ways the intention of the author of the text.18

As a result, I believe it is possible to conclude that the first book of Philodemus' rhetorical treatise is preserved in a provisional copy, whose text has not been fixed yet and which might have been at least partially written under Philodemus' supervision.19 In this scroll, some changes and the way these changes have been made by the scribe reveal the intention to facilitate the preparation of the future definitive copy. From this perspective, also the scribe's care to make clear corrections rather than save space and intervene discreetly and 'noninvasively' makes more sense.20

Another element related to the stichometric total recorded in the subscriptio of P. Herc. 1427 leads back to the same conclusion. After the name of the author, the title of the work and the indication of the book number, we can read the total of stichoi copied in the roll: [z] XXXX, 'Total number (scil. of stichoi) 4000'. As we know, the stichos is the unit of measurement for ancient works and it usually corresponds to a Homeric hexameter (circa 15-16 syllables). However, the equivalence between stichos and real line is actually not mathematically certain and can vary from roll to roll.21 Determining the actual ratio between stichos and real line in the roll of On Rhetoric Book 1 is the key to understanding stichometric annotations. In this book, besides total stichometry which we find in the end title, there are annotations referring to partial stichometry too: in addition to numerals written in the margins for every 100th stichos,22 in P. Herc. 1427 I have also detected dots traced to the left of the columns every 20 (real) lines. They are certainly stichometric dots which were used in order to facilitate the final counting of the lines on the part of the scribe and which were always written every 10 sichoi.23) The presence of these points in every 20th line is a very relevant element, allowing to precisely determine that in the roll of On Rhetoric Book 1 a stichos corresponds to two real lines (approximately 12 to 15 syllables).24 However, the total number of stichoi registered in the subscriptio and the ratio 1:2 between stichos and real line seem to be in contradiction with some objective data. In particular, 50 lines (= 25 stichoi) before the end of the text which is marked by a coronis, there is a stichometric ny in the intercolumnium, which indicates the 3700th stichos (= the 7400th real line): if the stichoi were really 4000, we would expect to count 300 more stichoi (= 600 real lines) after the ny, instead of the actual 25 stichoi. This probably suggests that the total number indicated in the end title was rounded up. The approximation from 3725 to 4000 might have been meant to compensate for the presence of insertions outside the columns (which were probably not included in the line counting), and perhaps also to allow for the possibility of future interventions by the author.25 This might turn out to be particularly relevant with reference to a provisional copy and to the necessity of subsequently recopying the text into a fair copy.

In light of these considerations, it can be concluded that the provisional nature of Philodemus' On Rhetoric Book 1 is not to be understood with regard to the material and external state of the book, but rather to the state of its text. Whether Philodemus was actually and constantly present in the Villa dei Papiri during the constitution of most of the library or not, his authoriality emerges -- occasionally and yet clearly -- from the editorial activity in full swing in those texts which have not yet progressed to their definitive editorial state.

Fig. 1: P. Herc. 1427, col. 3 ll. 11-13 © Biblioteca Nazionale. Napoli -- Brigham Young University. Provo. USA; duplication by any means is forbidden).

Fig. 2: P. Herc. 1427, col. 6 l. 13 (© Biblioteca Nazionale, Napoli -- Brigham Young University, Provo, USA: duplication by any means is forbidden).

Fig. 3: P. Herc. 1427. col1. 3 ll. 1-2 (lBiblioteca Nazionale, Napoli -- Brigham Young University, Provo, USA; duplication by any means is forbidden).

Fig. 4: P. Herc. 1427, fr. 4 ll. 3-5 (© Biblioteca Nazionale, Napoli -- Brigham Young University, Provo, USA; duplication by any means is forbidden).

Fig. 5: P. Herc. 1427, col. 6 l. 34 (© Biblioteca Nazionale, Napoli -- Brigham Young University, Provo, USA; duplication by any means is forbidden).



1 The images of P. Herc. 1427 (MSI) and of its disegni are reproduced by courtesy of the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attivita Culturali e del Turismo © Biblioteca Nationale. Napoli-Brigham Young University. Provo. USA; duplication by any means is forbidden. I am very thankful to  Prof. G. Abbamonte. Prof. P. Fioretti. and Prof. A. Stramaglia for the useful advice and the stimulating discussion on the topic of this paper.
2 The idea of the manus Philodemi is already in Comparetti (1880) 162. See Cavallo (1983) 26-27, who refused this idea, with reference to previous literature.
3 See Del Mastro (2014) 30-33, who has recently taken stock of the question; for an exhaustive  overview see now D'Angelo (2018) 128-9. At the present stage of our knowledge, the term  occurs in the end titles of P. Herc. 168 (Phld. Op. inc.). 1427 (Phld. Rh. I), 1674 (Phld. Rh. II),  1506 (Phld. Rh. III) and, according to a recent study by D' Angelo (2018), in the subscriptio to the theological work preserved in P. Herc. 89/1383. Regarding the presence of the term in Philodemus' rhetorical works, Sudhaus ([1892] xv, Sudhaus [1895a) 44, Sudhaus [1895b] 70-85, and Sudhaus [1896]) viii- xi), who published almost all the Herculaneum rhetorical papyri, claimed  that the two different titles referred to two different works, since Philodemus would have written a first work, [x], and then the proper [x]. Starting from Comparetti's reflections (Comparetti [1910] 124), scholars have come to consider the necessity to identify different copies of the same work instead of different works.  https://
4 Cavallo (1983) 63-64.
5 Cavallo (1984) 19. He ascribed the handwriting of the roll of On Rhetoric Book 1 to the first Philodemean age (75-50 BC) and placed its scribe (whom he named 'Anonimo XX') in a group ('Gruppo N') characterized by the peculiar bending of certain strokes ('contorsione o almeno curvatura di certi tratti'. Cavallo [1983] 38-39). One of the most representative examples of this group is P. Herc. 1426, which preserves the fair copy of Philodemus' On Rhetoric Book 3.
6 Delattre (1995). As for the different readings of the subscriptio and its complete transcription, see Del Mastro (2014) 87-88.
7 Dorandi (2007b) 70-77.
8 For the reconstruction of the roll, see Nicolardi (2018) 125-62.
9 See Nicolardi (2017) for a detailed analysis of all the corrective interventions in P. Herc. 1427.
10 Several corrections in scribendo of mechanical errors in P. Herc. 1427 are described in Nicolardi (2017), now also in Nicolardi (2018) 102-21.
11 I hereinafter refer to the numbering of the fragments and the columns as provided by the indications written on the 19th-century cardboard, on which the papyrus is glued, and as reproduced in Sudhaus (1892).
12 The reading of the adverb post correctionem is mine: for the previous editions, see the critical apparatus in Nicolardi (2018) col. 234 ll. 11-13.
13 See col. 237 l. 13, in Nicolardi (2018).
14 See col. 233 l. 37-234 l. 2, in Nicolardi (2018).
15 See col. 230 ll. 27-29, in Nicolardi (2018), with comment ad loc., and the introduction to this edition on Philodemus' classification of arts.
16 See col. 237 l. 34. in Nicolardi (2018).
17 See Gomperz (1872) 29 (= Dorandi [1993] 74).
18 This is both true if the changes occur for the first time in this papyrus and if they derive from a previous provisional copy used as antigraph, whose only trace we would thus find in our papyrus. As a matter of fact, it is not possible to completely exclude that a misleading and confused state of the passages in question in the antigraph caused the text ante correctionem and then led the scribe to pay more attention, to verify and to correct. Essler (2017) 71-75 has recently identified in P. Herc. 152/157 (Phld. De dis.) and in other Herculaneum papyri interventions which he has firmly attributed to Philodemus' intention.
19 If this hypothesis is correct and the changes are made for the first time in this copy, this book could be considered to be, as P. Fioretti usefully suggested to me, an author's idiograph.
20 Another possibility, for which I am thankful to the anonymous reader of this paper, might be that this roll had been firstly conceived as a definitive copy. The uneconomic intervention in col. 3 ll. 11-13. Sudhaus might thus be explained with the intention not to ruin the formality of the copy. Then, only as a result of the first revision by the main scribe and of the multiple interventions made by him, the book might have been 'downgraded' to provisional copy, with consequences on the subscriptio and on the final stichometric counting (on these two aspects see below), which were written at the end of the roll after this first revision.
21 In Herculaneum papyri 100 stichoi usually correspond to circa 180-200 real lines. See Bassi (1909) 326-32.
22 With this aim the alphabetical series of 24 letters (not enriched with stigma, coppa and  sampi) is generally used; a new series can begin after omega (alpha = 100; beta = 200; gamma = 300; ... omega = 2400: alpha = 2500: beta = 2600). On the use and the importance of stichometric numerals see Del Mastro (2011) 38; Del Mastro (2012) 41-43; Essler (2008) 299-305, with reference to previous literature.
23 Stichometric dots also occur in other Herrulaneum papyri: see Bassi (1909) 70-71; Philippson (1920) 235, 364-5: Ohly (1924) 191; Obbink (1996) 63-64; Del Mastro (2012) 41-42.
24 The lack of precise correspondence between standard stichos and the actual number of  syllables and letters per stichos is also attested in other Herculaneum rolls: in the roll of Philodemus' De pietate, e.g., one stichos corresponds to two lines with just 12 syllables: see Ohly  (1928) 56.
25 The rounding up to 4000 is particularly interesting, since this number, as Del Mastro (2012) 35-38 showed on the basis of Gal., De indolentia 28 Brodersen, might have been a limit beyond which it could have been necessary to divide the work into two rolls.
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Postby admin » Sun Nov 27, 2022 4:30 am

Buried by the Ash of Vesuvius, These Scrolls Are Being Read for the First Time in Millennia: A revolutionary American scientist is using subatomic physics to decipher 2,000-year-old texts from the early days of Western civilization
by Jo Marchant, Photographs by Henrik Knudsen
Smithsonian Magazine
July 2018 ... 180969358/



The charred papyrus scroll recovered from Herculaneum is preserved in 12 trays mounted under glass. Here is PHerc.118 in tray 8. The scroll was physically unrolled in 1883-84, causing irreparable damage. Henrik Knudsen

It’s July 12, 2017, and Jens Dopke walks into a windowless room in Oxfordshire, England, all of his attention trained on a small, white frame that he carries with both hands. The space, which looks like a futuristic engine room, is crowded with sleek metal tables, switches and platforms topped with tubes and boxes. A tangle of pipes and wires covers the walls and floor like vines.

In the middle of the room, Dopke, a physicist, eases the frame into a holder mounted on a metal turntable, a red laser playing on the back of his hand. Then he uses his cellphone to call his colleague Michael Drakopoulos, who is sitting in a control room a few yards away. “Give it another half a millimeter,” Dopke says. Working together, they adjust the turntable so that the laser aligns perfectly with a dark, charred speck at the center of the frame.

Dozens of similar rooms, or “hutches,” are arrayed around this huge, doughnut-shaped building, a type of particle accelerator called a synchrotron. It propels electrons to near light speed around its 500-meter-long ring, bending them with magnets so they emit light. The resulting radiation is focused into intense beams, in this case high-energy X-rays, which travel through each hutch. That red laser shows the path the beam will take. A thick lead shutter, attached to the wall, is all that stands between Dopke and a blast of photons ten billion times brighter than the Sun.

The facility, called Diamond Light Source, is one of the most powerful and sophisticated X-ray facilities in the world, used to probe everything from viruses to jet engines. On this summer afternoon, though, its epic beam will focus on a tiny crumb of papyrus that has already survived one of the most destructive forces on the planet—and 2,000 years of history. It comes from a scroll found in Herculaneum, an ancient Roman resort on the Bay of Naples, Italy, that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. In the 18th century, workmen employed by King Charles III of Spain, then in charge of much of southern Italy, discovered the remains of a magnificent villa, thought to have belonged to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (known as Piso), a wealthy statesman and the father-in-law of Julius Caesar. The luxurious residence had elaborate gardens surrounded by colonnaded walkways and was filled with beautiful mosaics, frescoes and sculptures. And, in what was to become one of the most frustrating archaeological discoveries ever, the workmen also found approximately 2,000 papyrus scrolls.

Among the many thousands killed by Vesuvius’ eruption was Pliny the Elder, the ancient world’s greatest naturalist, whose death is depicted in an 1813 painting by Pierre Henri de Valenciennes. Deagostini / Getty Images

The scrolls represent the only intact library known from the classical world, an unprecedented cache of ancient knowledge. Most classical texts we know today were copied, and were therefore filtered and distorted, by scribes over centuries, but these works came straight from the hands of the Greek and Roman scholars themselves. Yet the tremendous volcanic heat and gases spewed by Vesuvius carbonized the scrolls, turning them black and hard like lumps of coal. Over the years, various attempts to open some of them created a mess of fragile flakes that yielded only brief snippets of text. Hundreds of the papyri were therefore left unopened, with no realistic prospect that their contents would ever be revealed. And it probably would have remained that way except for an American computer scientist named Brent Seales, director of the Center for Visualization & Virtual Environments at the University of Kentucky.

Seales is in the control room now, watching intently: frowning, hands in pockets, legs wide.

The papyrus scrap in the white frame, held between two layers of transparent orange film, is just three millimeters across, and sports one barely visible letter: an old-fashioned Greek character called a lunate sigma, which looks like a lowercase “c.” Next to the turntable, shielded inside a tungsten tube, is a high-resolution X-ray detector, called HEXITEC, that has taken engineers ten years to develop. Seales believes that it will pick up the desperately faint signal he’s looking for and, in doing so, “read” the tiny Greek letter. “When I started thinking about this, this technology didn’t exist,” he says. “I don’t think there’s another detector in the world right now that could do this kind of measurement.” If it works, imaging the single letter on this charred crumb could help to unlock the secrets of the entire library.

A section of an ancient Torah Scroll found in the Byzantine-era [330-1453 A.D.] synagogue in Ein Gedi. It includes verses from the beginning of Leviticus. Courtesy of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, IAA. Photo: S. Halevi

A wailing alarm sounds as Dopke exits the hutch before Drakopoulos swings shut the 1,500-pound, lead-lined door. Back in the control room, computer screens show a live feed of the papyrus from multiple angles as Drakopoulos clicks his mouse to raise the shutter and flood the hutch with radiation. Sitting next to him, an engineer prepares to capture data from the detector. “Ready?” he asks. “I’m going to press Play.”


Seales, who is 54, has wide-set eyes beneath a prominent brow, and an air of sincere and abiding optimism. He’s an unlikely pioneer in papyrus studies. Brought up near Buffalo, New York, he has no training in the classics. While European curators and textual scholars yearn to discover lost works of classical literature in the Herculaneum scrolls, Seales, an evangelical Christian, dreams of finding letters written by the apostle Paul, who was said to have traveled around Naples in the years before Vesuvius erupted.

Seales came of age in the 1970s and ’80s—the era of early video games, when big-dreaming Californians were building computers in their garages—and he was a techie from a young age. With no money for college, but with a brain for complex mathematics and music (he played violin at his local church), Seales won a double scholarship from the University of Southwestern Louisiana to study computer science and music. Later, while earning his doctorate, at the University of Wisconsin, he became fascinated with “computer vision,” and began writing algorithms to convert two-dimensional photographs into 3-D models—a technique that later enabled vehicles such as Mars rovers, for example, to navigate terrain on their own. Seales went to work at the University of Kentucky in 1991, and when a colleague took him along to the British Library to photograph fragile manuscripts, Seales, captivated by the idea of seeing the unseeable, found the challenge thrilling.

The British Library project was part of a “digital renaissance” in which millions of books and hundreds of thousands of manuscripts were photographed for posterity and stored online. Seales helped make a digital version of the only surviving copy of the Old English epic poem Beowulf, using ultraviolet light to enhance the surviving text. But working with the warped, cockled pages made him realize the inadequacy of two-dimensional photographs, in which words can be distorted or hidden in creases and folds.

So in 2000, he created three-dimensional computer models of the pages of a damaged manuscript, Otho B.x (an 11th-century collection of saints’ lives), then developed an algorithm to stretch them, producing an artificial “flat” version that didn’t exist in reality. When that worked, he wondered if he could go even further, and use digital imaging not just to flatten crinkled pages but to “virtually unwrap” unopened scrolls—and reveal texts that hadn’t been read since antiquity. “I realized that no one else was doing this,” he says.

He began to experiment with a medical-grade computed tomography (or CT) scanner, which uses X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of an object’s internal structure. First, he tried imaging the paint on a modern rolled-up canvas. Then he scanned his first authentic object—a 15th-century bookbinding thought to contain a fragment of Ecclesiastes hidden inside. It worked.

Buoyed by his success, Seales imagined reading fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which include the oldest biblical writings ever found, dating to as far back as the third century B.C., sections of which remain unopened today. Then, in 2005, a classicist colleague took him to Naples, where many of the excavated Herculaneum scrolls are displayed at the National Library, a few steps from a window with a view across the bay to Vesuvius itself. Seared by gases at hundreds of degrees centigrade and superheated volcanic materials that in time hardened into 60 feet of rock, the distorted, crumbling rolls were believed by most scholars to be the very definition of a lost cause.

For Seales, viewing them was an “almost otherworldly” experience, he says. “I realized that there were many dozens, probably hundreds, of these intact scrolls, and nobody had the first idea about what the text might be. We were looking at manuscripts that represent the biggest mysteries that I can imagine.”


He isn’t the first to try to solve these mysteries. In 1752, when Charles III’s workmen found the carbonized lumps inside what’s now known as the Villa dei Papiri, they assumed they were pieces of coal and burned them or threw them in the sea. But once they were identified as scrolls, Camillo Paderni, an artist in charge of the recovered antiquities, set about opening the remaining ones. His method involved slicing the rolls in half, copying any visible text, then scraping away each layer in turn to reveal what was beneath. Hundreds of rolls were transcribed that way—and destroyed in the process.

In 1754, a Vatican priest and conservator named Antonio Piaggio dreamed up a new scheme: He glued goldbeater’s skin (a calf’s extremely thin yet tough intestinal membrane) to a scroll’s surface, then used a contraption involving weights on strings to ease it open. Artists watched this excruciatingly slow process and copied any exposed writing in pencil sketches known as disegni. Many of the flaky outer layers of the scrolls were removed before the inner portion could be unwound, and the papyrus often tore off in narrow strips, leaving layers stuck together. Hundreds of scrolls were pulled apart using Piaggio’s machine, but they revealed only limited text.

In the 18th century, scrolls were unwrapped at the rate of a centimeter an hour, using a machine designed by Vatican conservator Antonio Piaggio. Tesoro Letterario Di Ercolano, Tavola IV (1858)

Scholars searching the transcribed fragments for lost works of literature have largely been disappointed. A few pieces of Latin works were discovered, including parts of the Annales, by Quintus Ennius, a second-century B.C. epic poem about the early history of Rome, and Carmen de bello Actiaco, which tells of the final hours of Antony and Cleopatra. The vast majority of the opened scrolls contained Greek philosophical texts, relating to the ideas of Epicurus, an Athenian philosopher in the late fourth and early third centuries B.C., who believed that everything in nature is made up of atoms too small to see. Some are by Epicurus himself, such as a piece of On Nature, a huge work that was previously known but lost. But most are by Philodemus, an Epicurean employed by Piso in the first century B.C., and cover Epicurus’ views on ethics, poetry and music.

None of the Herculaneum scrolls has been opened since the 19th century, and scholars have instead focused on squeezing information out of the already-revealed texts. A step forward came in the 1980s, when Dirk Obbink of Oxford University and Daniel Delattre of France’s National Center for Scientific Research independently worked out how to reassemble fragments dissected under Paderni. In the 1990s, Brigham Young University researchers photographed the surviving opened papyri using multispectral imaging, which deploys a range of wavelengths of light to illuminate the text. Infrared light, in particular, increased the contrast between the black ink and dark background. That was a “huge breakthrough,” says Obbink. “It enabled us to read vastly more of the unrolled rolls.”

The new images triggered a wave of scholarship into Epicurean philosophy, which had been poorly understood compared with the rival ideas of Plato, Aristotle or the Stoics. But the texts were still incomplete. The beginnings of all the manuscripts remain missing. And the prose is often scrambled, because letters and words from different layers of a scroll wound up next to one another in two-dimensional renderings. “What we’d really like to do,” says Obbink, “is to read a text from beginning to end.”

That was thought impossible, until Seales saw the scrolls in Naples and realized that his research had been leading to exactly this grand challenge. “I thought, I’m a year away,” Seales says. “All I have to do is get access to the scrolls, and we can solve this.”

That was 13 years ago.


Seales vastly underestimated, among other things, the difficulty of getting permission even to study the scrolls. Conservators are understandably reluctant to hand out these terribly fragile objects, and the library in Naples refused Seales’ requests to scan one. But a handful of Herculaneum papyri ended up in England and France, as gifts from Ferdinand, son of Charles III and King of Naples and Sicily. Seales collaborated with Delattre and the Institut de France, which has six scrolls in its possession. Two of the scrolls are in hundreds of pieces after past attempts to open them, and Seales eventually received permission to study three small fragments.

The first problem he hoped to solve was how to detect ink hidden inside rolled-up scrolls. From the late third century A.D. onward, ink tended to include iron, which is dense and easy to spot in X-ray images. But the papyri found at Herculaneum, created before A.D. 79, were written with ink made primarily of charcoal mixed with water, which is extremely difficult to distinguish from the carbonized papyrus it sits on.

Iron gall ink (also known as common ink, standard ink, oak gall ink or iron gall nut ink) is a purple-black or brown-black ink made from iron salts and tannic acids from vegetable sources. It was the standard ink formulation used in Europe for the 1400-year period between the 5th and 19th centuries, remained in widespread use well into the 20th century, and is still sold today.

-- Iron gall ink, by Wikipedia

Until about 300 CE, ink was usually made of a fine carbon powder such as lampblack, mixed with gum arabic and water, which even today retains its black lustre. Carbon inks were then replaced by iron-gall inks made from a mixture of tannic acid (made from oak galls soaked in water), ferrous sulphate, and gum arabic. There seem to have been several reasons for the changeover to iron-gall inks: they were easier and more economical to make, they could be made in quantity, and they did not flake off the surface of vellum (which was becoming the preferred writing surface of the time) as carbon inks did. Iron-gall ink does have certain drawbacks: it has a tendency to fade and oxidize over time, turning from a dark grayish-black when freshly written to a characteristic brown (which today is often associated with early manuscripts), and it sometimes has a corrosive effect on vellum, causing the writing from one side of a page to bleed through to the other. On paper, some iron-gall inks have actually eaten through the writing surface. Erasures, which could be made on wax with the blunt end of a stylus and on papyrus by wiping with a wet sponge, were more difficult on vellum written with iron-gall inks. Corrections were made by scraping the faulty text off with the edge of a knife, rubbing the surface with an abrasive, and then burnishing it to make it smooth enough to receive ink again. Sometimes when vellum was not easily available or was relatively expensive, an outdated text might be erased and written over. Since the ink actually dyes the vellum, traces of the original text often remain and appear faintly under newly written text. Such doubly written manuscripts are called palimpsests.

-- Greek handwriting: Origins to the 8th century CE, by

At his lab in Kentucky, Seales subjected the papyrus scraps to a battery of noninvasive tests. He looked for trace elements in the ink—anything that might show up in CT—and discovered tiny amounts of lead, perhaps contamination from a lead inkwell or water pipe. It was enough for the Institut de France to give him access to two intact papyri: blackened sausage-shaped artifacts that Seales nicknamed “Banana Boy” and “Fat Bastard.” Seales arranged for a 600-pound high-resolution CT scanner to be sent by truck from Belgium, and he made intricately detailed scans of the scrolls. But after months of analyzing the data, Seales was disheartened to find that the ink inside the scrolls, despite the traces of lead, was invisible.

What was worse, the scans showed the layers inside the scrolls to be so carbonized that in many places there was no detectable separation between them. “It was just too complicated for our algorithms,” Seales admits. He played me a video of the CT scan data, showing one of the scrolls in cross-section. The whorls of papyrus glowed white against a dark background, like closely wound strands of silk. “Just take a look at that,” said Seales. “This is when we knew we were doomed for the present time.”

What makes virtual unwrapping such a complex challenge is that, even if you imaged the inside of a rolled-up scroll written in ink that glowed brightly in scans, you would still only see a dizzying mess of tightly packed letters floating in space, like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle—but without a final picture to use as a guide. To decipher that jumble of letters, Seales’ key innovation was to develop software to locate and model the surface layer within a wound-up scroll, which analyzes each point in as many as 12,000 cross-sections. Then he looks for density changes that correspond to the ink, and applies filters or other techniques to increase the contrast of the letters as much as possible. The final step is to figuratively “unroll” the image for reading.

Seales spent 2012 and 2013 as a visiting scientist at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris, amping up his algorithms to cope with the complex structures the CT scans had revealed. He got the chance to try his new approach soon afterward, when Pnina Shor, at the Israel Antiquities Authority, or IAA, in Jerusalem, contacted him about a carbonized roll of parchment found in the ancient town of Ein Gedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The scroll was excavated from the remains of a synagogue, which was destroyed by fire in the sixth century A.D. The charred, cigar-shaped lump was far too fragile to open, but Israeli researchers had recently CT-scanned it. Would Seales take a look at the data? Shor handed over a hard drive, and Seales and his colleagues went to work.

In the meantime, Seales was chasing a new idea for reading carbon-based ink: X-ray phase-contrast tomography, a highly sensitive form of imaging that can detect subtle density changes in a material—the kind that might result from applying ink to papyrus—by measuring the changing intensity of the beam as it passes through an object. Only a large particle accelerator, though, can produce such a beam. One of the nearest was Synchrotron Soleil, outside Paris. Seales’ request for “beam time” there was rejected, but he and Delattre were subsequently approached by an Italian physicist named Vito Mocella, who had close ties to another synchrotron in Grenoble, in southeastern France. Seales provided custom-designed cases for the scrolls, built using data from his CT scans, but his schedule didn’t allow him to travel. So in December 2013, Delattre took Banana Boy and another scroll to Grenoble without him.*

Seales waited eagerly for the promised data, but the files did not arrive. Then, in January 2015, Mocella’s group published the results without him. It was, Seales says, an “excruciatingly frustrating” experience. “I believed we were collaborating, until I realized that the feeling was not mutual.”

News stories around the world reported that Herculaneum scrolls had been deciphered at last. But, in fact, Mocella had claimed to read only letters, and some scholars are cautious about even those, not least because the group did not publish enough information for others to replicate the analysis. Mocella finally shared his data with Seales and others after publication. After reviewing it, Seales concluded that the findings were a bust. “The dataset did not produce any contrast at the ink,” he told me. Seales thinks the researchers, who were without software to model the surfaces within the scrolls, were seeing “ghosts”—random patterns in the papyrus’ fiber structure that just happen to look like letters. He is now convinced that phase-contrast tomography alone is not sufficient to read the Herculaneum scrolls in any meaningful way. (Mocella insists the letters he saw were real, and he took issue with Seales’ version of the incident. “From my point of view, I and my team are still working with Brent, since we’ve given him, as with other specialists like him, most of the scans,” Mocella said.)

By that point Seales had finished a preliminary analysis of the Ein Gedi scroll, and in July 2015 he and the IAA announced their results. “We absolutely hit a home run,” Seales says.

Unlike the authors of the Herculaneum scrolls, the Hebrew scribes had mixed metals into their ink. Seales’ software correctly mapped the letters to the rolled-up parchment, then virtually unfurled it, revealing all of the surviving text, in perfect sequence, on each of the five wraps of the scroll. There were 35 lines of text in two columns, composed of Hebrew letters just two millimeters tall. Israeli researchers identified the text as the first two chapters of the Book of Leviticus, dating to the third or fourth century A.D. It was a hugely significant find for biblical scholars: the oldest extant copy of the Hebrew Bible outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a glimpse into the history of the Bible during a period from which hardly any texts survive.

And it was proof that Seales’ method worked. Following Mocella’s publication, however, the Institut de France refused further access to its Herculaneum scrolls. Which is why Seales turned his attention to Oxford.


Seales and colleague Seth Parker use an Artec Space Spider 3-D scanner to model a Herculaneum scroll at the Bodleian Libraries, at Oxford University. Henrik Knudsen

The Bodleian Libraries, at Oxford University, possess four Herculaneum scrolls, which arrived in 1810, after they were presented to the Prince of Wales. They are kept deep inside the building, in a location so secret that even David Howell, the Bodleian’s head of heritage science, says he doesn’t know where it is.

Seales wasn’t permitted to see the intact papyri, never mind scan them. But one of the four, known as “P.Herc. 118,” was sent to Naples in 1883, to be unrolled using Piaggio’s machine. It came back as a mosaic of crumbs, which were glued onto tissue paper and mounted behind glass in 12 wood frames. The text appears to be a history of Epicurean philosophy, probably by Philodemus, but it has been particularly challenging for scholars to interpret. A fragment might seem covered with continuous lines of writing, says Obbink, “but really every inch you’re jumping up or down a layer.”

To prove the value of his approach, Seales asked the Bodleian to let him analyze P.Herc. 118. If all went well, he hoped, he might get a shot at scanning the intact scrolls later. “We wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to get involved, except for Brent’s enthusiasm,” says Howell. So in July 2017, the 12 frames were removed from storage and taken to Howell’s third-floor office—something of a coup for Seales, given their invaluable nature. Cheerful and ruddy-faced, Howell has worked in conservation for close to 35 years, and even he felt daunted as the protective glass frames were removed, exposing the fragile papyrus beneath. “These are the most terrifying objects I’ve ever handled,” he says. “If you sneeze, they’d blow away.”

Seales and another colleague scanned these scroll fragments using a hand-held 3-D scanner called an Artec Space Spider. Meanwhile, Howell carried out hyperspectral imaging, which uses hundreds of wavelengths of light. Howell listened to Pink Floyd through noise-canceling headphones to escape the grinding noise of the scanner, he says, plus the knowledge that if anything went wrong, “I might as well pack my bags and go home and not come back.”

The 3-D template can be combined with high-resolution images and infrared photography to reveal otherwise nearly “invisible” ink. Seth Parker / University of Kentucky

After Seales returned to Kentucky, he and his colleagues spent months mapping all of the available 2-D images onto the 3-D template produced by the Artec Space Spider. This past March, they returned to Oxford to present the results on a big screen to a packed conference room. At such a high resolution, the charred papyrus resembled a dark-brown mountain range as seen from above, with lines of text snaking over the ridges and peaks. There was a gasp from the audience as Seales’ student Hannah Hatch rotated the image, then zoomed into creases and peeked over folds, flipping seamlessly between high-resolution photographs, infrared images and even the disegni drawings—all matched up to the 3-D template.

Shortly afterward, James Brusuelas, an Oxford papyrologist working with Seales, revealed several new details visible in the scans, such as the name Pythocles, who was a young follower of Epicurus. More important, Brusuelas was able to decipher the column structure of the text—17 characters per line—which will be crucial for reading the rest of the roll, particularly when trying to join different fragments together. “We have the basic information we need to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” he said.

The audience buzzed with questions and applause. It was the reaction Seales was hoping for, and a step toward his real goal—gaining access to intact scrolls.

He’d saved his own presentation until last. It wasn’t about P.Herc. 118, but rather one tiny letter: the lunate sigma.


Driving south from the stone archways and quadrangles of Oxford, the road soon cuts through flat green fields reaching to the horizon. On the day I visited, fork-tailed red kites hovered high in the blue July sky. After 15 or so miles a sprawling campus of low gray buildings came into view. At first, it resembled an ordinary industrial park, until I noticed the names of the roads: Fermi, Rutherford, Becquerel, all giants of 19th- and 20th-century physics. Behind a wire fence a huge, silver dome, more than a quarter-mile in circumference, rose from the grass like a giant flying saucer. This was Diamond Light Source, and Seales was waiting inside.

Brent Seales at the particle accelerator Diamond Light Source, where electrons are propelled at such speeds they could circle Earth 7.5 times per second. Henrik Knudsen

He’d brought a speck of charred papyrus from one of the Herculaneum scrolls he studied a decade earlier. The ink on it, he had found, contained a trace of lead. In Grenoble, direct X-ray imaging of the scrolls had not been enough to detect the ink. But when you fire hugely powerful X-rays through lead, the metal emits electromagnetic radiation, or “fluoresces,” at a characteristic frequency. Seales hoped to pick up that signal with a detector placed beside the fragment, which was specially calibrated to capture photons at lead’s characteristic frequency.

It was a long shot. The minuscule fluorescence of the letter would be swamped by radiation from the protective lead lining the room—like looking for a flickering candle from miles away on a rainy night, Seales said, as we stood in the crowded hutch. But after several days of intense work—optimizing the angle of the detector, shielding the main X-ray beam with tungsten “flight tubes”—the team finally got what it was looking for: a grainy, but clearly recognizable, “c.”

“We’ve proven it,” Seales said in triumph as he displayed the legible image to the Oxford audience in March. It is, Seales hopes, the last piece of the puzzle he needs to read the ink inside a Herculaneum scroll.

The results have scholars excitedly re-evaluating what they might now be able to achieve. “I think it’s actually very close to being cracked,” says Obbink, the Oxford papyrologist. He estimates that at least 500 Herculaneum scrolls haven’t been opened. Moreover, excavations at Herculaneum in the 1990s revealed two unexplored layers of the villa, which some scholars believe may contain hundreds or even thousands more scrolls.

Many scholars are convinced that Piso’s great library must have contained a range of literature far wider than what has been documented so far. Obbink says he wouldn’t be surprised to find more Latin literature, or a once-unimaginable treasure of lost poems by Sappho, the revered seventh-century B.C. poet known today only through the briefest of fragments.

Michael Phelps, of the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library, in California, who recently used multispectral imaging to reveal dozens of hidden texts on reused parchment at St. Catherine’s Monastery, in Egypt, calls Seales’ methods “revolutionary.” Scholars have long faced a choice between attempting to read concealed texts (and potentially destroying them in the process) or conserving them unread. “Brent Seales’ technology is removing that dilemma,” Phelps says.

Successfully reading Herculaneum scrolls could trigger a new “renaissance of classical antiquity,” says Gregory Heyworth, a medievalist at the University of Rochester in New York. He points out that virtual unwrapping could be applied to countless other texts. In Western Europe alone, he estimates, there are tens of thousands of manuscripts dating from before A.D. 1500—from carbonized scrolls to book covers made from older, glued-together pages—that could benefit from such imaging.

“We’d change the canon,” Heyworth says. “I think the next generation is going to have a very different picture of antiquity.”

Michael Drakopoulos (red polo), Brent Seales (jacket), Seth Parker (white shirt) at the Diamond Experimental Hutch, surrounded by detectors, setting up the fragment in preparation for the X-ray. Henrik Knudsen


Seales has lately been enhancing his technique, by using artificial intelligence to train his software to recognize subtle differences in texture between papyrus and ink. He plans to combine such machine learning and X-ray fluorescence to produce the clearest possible text. In the future, “it’ll all be automated,” he predicts. “Put it in the scanner and it will all just unfurl.”

Seales is still negotiating with curators in Oxford, Naples and Paris for access to intact scrolls. He has surmounted huge technical hurdles, but the complex political challenge of navigating the gatekeepers, winning beam time at particle accelerators and lining up funding can, very occasionally, puncture his optimism. “How does a guy like me make all that stuff happen all at once?” he said in one such moment. He shrugged and looked around him. “It’s more than a computer scientist is really capable of doing.”

Then belief returned to his wide, hazel eyes. “I refuse to accept that it’s not possible,” he said. “At every turn, there has been something that opened up.” Reading a complete intact scroll at last, he went on, would be “like returning home to your family, who have been waiting all along for you to do the thing you started.”

*Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct the name of the French research facility that declined Seales' proposal to scan a Herculaneum scroll, and to clarify how the scrolls were ultimately scanned at Grenoble.


The Scroll from En-Gedi
by UK College of Engineering
Accessed: 11/27/22


In 2015, Dr. William Brent Seales and his team digitally unfurled the scroll from En-Gedi, revealing it to be the book of Leviticus. It is the oldest Hebrew Bible ever found after the Dead Sea scrolls and the only one ever uncovered in an ancient Jewish synagogue.

En-Gedi, Israel is the desert oasis where David hid from King Saul in the biblical account of 1 Samuel.[???!!!]

Question: What is the historical/anthropological evidence of King Saul's existence?
by Daniel Metivier
Accessed: 11/27/22

Answer: To date there is no evidence outside the Tanakh and OT to conclude that King Saul was a historical figure. There is some evidence suggesting that King David was a historical figure, namely a tablet from the Tel Dan which is thought to be celebrating the defeat of both the “king of Israel” and the “king of the House of David” by an Aramean king.

The inscription does not name the kings but it does coincide with a known battle in which Hazael of Damascus defeated both Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah (Judah being the land of David).

If we can ever definitely prove that David existed that would be a step towards proving Saul. Now to be clear, just because David might have been an actual historical King, it does not mean that the various stories recorded centuries after his time are real.

There is some evidence to support the existence of a historical King Arthur and a historical Robin Hood but the stories that evolved from these figures are greatly exaggerated and have grown over the years to fit the needs of the storytellers. The Deuteronomist were trying to show how obedience to god resulted in the Israelites being rewarded and disobedience resulted in punishment and expanding upon the lore of an early King served this purpose exceedingly well.

We may one day find out that a Historical David succeeded a Historical Saul. This would be a fascinating archaeological and historical achievement. We discover that the city of Troy actually existed but that does not mean that any of the stories surrounding Troy, namely the stories of the Olympian gods, are automatically true.

[Jacques Briend, Catholic University of Paris] On the basis of these geographical sites [Samaria, Jerusalem, Hebron, & Beersheba] it is understandable that an attempt was made to link them to each other. As history developed, an understanding was sought of how these groups of humans related to each other. This led to a sort of Patriarchal genealogy with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

[Thomas Romer, University of Lausanne] It was quite obvious that there were originally three quite separate traditions. The patriarchs were, in fact, not related. In the North, the story of Jacob was told. In Hebron, the story of Abraham, and in Beersheba, the story of Isaac. The idea that these three Patriarchs were from one and the same family was, in fact, an invention after the fact by those who wrote the Bible. They wanted to show that there was a link between these three Patriarchs, whereas in fact there was none.

[Israel Finkelstein, Tel Aviv University] So there are three different traditions set in the background of three different geographical zones. And the question is, "Why Abraham at the center?" Why Abraham is put first? The answer is clear. We are in Jerusalem, and Judah in the 7th century, in the period of the Judaic kingdom. So regardless of whether the Patriarchs are historical or mythical, the most important fact is the background of the story shows us that we are in the 7th century, in Judah, in Jerusalem. The people who wrote this decided to put Abraham first, as the founder of the family, as the center of the story, and by that also, Judah as the center of the universe.

[Narrator] The Bible contains many long genealogies, lists of generations and family alliances that define territories and structure time.

[Thomas Romer, University of Lausanne] The history of the Patriarchs in the Bible is also a family history. Abraham was not only Isaac's father, he was also Ishmael's father, who is the origin of all Arab tribes. And Isaac is not only Jacob's father, he's also Esau's father. And then Abraham is also Lot's uncle. This means that all the different peoples, clans, and tribes that live in Canaan, and in Cis in trans-Jordan, are linked by being descendants of Abraham. So all these people are presented as being part of one great family, with the problems faced by all families, but also the idea of a profound link between all these different peoples.

[Neil Asher Silberman, Center for Archaeological Research -- ENAME Belgium] What we see in the figure of Abraham is a symbolic representation of the birth of the nation. Because at the time of the writing of the Bible, the history of the people of Israel was not considered to be history in the sense that we understand it: of years, of periods, of particular historical events. It was seen more as the history of the family, and of course, the father of the family, the founder of the family, is a person of great significance. And throughout all the stories of Abraham, we see symbolic representations of the places of importance in Judah, of the kinds of relationships with other people that made Judean history.

[Narrator] The story of the Patriarchs is the first pillar of what would later become Judaism, and that is common roots. According to Jewish tradition, the group known as the people of Israel is made up of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In their eyes, belonging to a people and to a religion is one and the same thing.

[Israel Finkelstein] The first verses of the Book of Joshua say the following: "After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua, the son of Nun, Moses' minister, 'Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, unto the land which I am giving to them, to the people of Israel, every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you as I promised to Moses.'"

This is the beginning of the great saga, the great epic, of the conquest of Canaan in the Book of Joshua. And the Bible tells the story, step-by-step: from here to Jericho, from Jericho to Ai, from Ai to the war with the kings of the south, and then to Hazor and the kings of the north. And it's a wonderful story, a great saga of war and conquest and bravery.

[Thomas Romer] The Biblical version presents this conquest as a sort of blitzkrieg. In all, it took two weeks, and practically the whole of the population was exterminated. No mercy was shown for the people of Canaan. But we're not told why. We're not told that it was because they worshipped false gods, or because they were particularly evil. On the contrary, no reasons are given. What is important is that they were all devoted to destruction according to the Biblical text. The word used is "Hem," which means that everything must be destroyed in order to be given back to Yahweh.

[Narrator] The archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon, was the first to conclude that at the time suggested by the Bible, there were no walls in Jericho that needed tumbling down. At the time of the conquest of Canaan, Jericho was unoccupied.

[Israel Finkelstein, Tel Aviv University] So this is not history in the simple sense in the case of Jericho. It applies also for other places mentioned in the tradition of the conquest in the book of Joshua. Many of the cities mentioned were not inhabited at all in the late Bronze Age. There was nothing there. So the Book of Joshua is not history. It's a mythical description. And like the case of the Patriarchs, and the case of Exodus, it tells the story of the formative stage in the life of the nation. And as such, it is full of divine interventions, bravery and miracles.

[Thomas Romer, University of Lausanne] The Joshua epic is the start of a great story that ends up in a story of kingship. The Book of Joshua is in fact the Bible's first installment of a story that would ultimately show why Israel chose a king in the same way that other peoples had done. But it didn't happen overnight. Joshua already prefigures in the Bible as being slightly royal as he is treated somewhat like a king. But after the story of Joshua, we find a book called The Book of Judges. They were charismatic leaders who arose during a period that was chaotic and anarchical, a period in which nothing was determined. There was no central power, and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes," according to the formula used in the book. So the book of Judges is used to show it is not possible to organize a nation in the absence of a king or a central power. The Book of Judges ends on that final note. It is followed by the story of Samuel, which is the introduction to the history of kingship. Samuel will be the one to choose first Saul and then David as the king of Israel.

[Narrator] What about David's city?

[Ronny Reich, University of Haifa] In the late Bronze Age and in the early Iron Age, there is human activity here; there's human occupation here, on a very small scale.

[Israel Finkelstein] The way I see it, there was a village here in the 10th century, but it was a small one, mainly on this part of the ridge of the city of David, not all along the ridge, and with a very limited population, not fortified and with no monuments.

[Ronny Reich, University of Haifa] Well, I agree that it was a very small place. Iron Age Jerusalem was a very small place. And this does not agree -- archaeology and text describe two different natures of sites.
Not the existence, but the natures of sites.

[Narrator] Unlike the great city of the 7th Century, David's Jerusalem was a simple mountain village covering 3-4 hectares. We can agree that David did not build a prestigious capital. In the Bible, he's above-all described as a conqueror. But what about his son -- the illustrious Solomon -- whom the Bible tells us is a great builder?

[Thomas Romer, University of Lausanne] The Biblical story of Solomon reads a bit like a story from the Arabian Nights. Solomon is the wise king par excellence. He of the famous judgment of Solomon. But he is also someone who is so famous that even the Queen of Sheba came to visit him, to meet with the man whose wisdom was talked about even in far-flung Africa. Solomon's empire was said to have been so enormous that no other empire could compete! And Solomon was also the builder of the temple which allowed the God of Israel to find a resting place within Israel.

[Narrator] Like David's Jerusalem, Solomon's capital was an insignificant village.

[Israel Finkelstein] There's no evidence for a great Solomonic capital, ruling over a great state, rich state and so on. And here at Megiddo, the buildings, the monumental buildings which had been described as the symbol of Solomonic greatness, in fact date a bit later. They don't date to the time of Solomon. They don't date to the 10th century. So we are in a situation of complete negative picture, negative evidence from coast to coast.

-- The Bible Unearthed, directed by Thierry Ragobert

But in 1970, it became the site of an exciting discovery. Right there on the shore of the Dead Sea, an Israeli archeologist pulled a blackened, 3-inch, cigar-shaped stick out of the ground. He was excavating the ruins of an 8th century BCE synagogue, and the ground where he was standing was actually the site of the ancient temple’s holy ark.

This piece of charcoal, therefore, represented a dramatic discovery, as it was almost certainly a sacred scroll. But, burned and charred from a fire in the 6th century AD, then further damaged by 1500 ensuing years of deterioration, it was impossible to unroll and verify the crumbling scroll’s contents without completely destroying it. So, despite the archaeologist’s hunch that he had found something incredibly significant, the artifact was shelved and then eventually locked away in a vault at the Israel Antiquities Authority. There it remained untouched and unread for almost half a century.

In 2014, Pnina Shor, curator and director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the Israel Antiquities Authority, contacted us and wanted to know if we could take a look at some data she had acquired from a volumetric scan of the scroll. We agreed, she gave us a hard drive containing the CT scan data, and in a few short months we achieved the impossible. Using our process of virtual unwrapping that we had worked for 15 years to develop, we revealed the scroll to be part of the Bible, the first chapter of Leviticus to be exact, and we did it without ever touching, opening, or even seeing the scroll.

When we sent Shor our preliminary results, she immediately called a press conference for the following week. She told the press, “When we saw the results we almost fainted. We had been certain it was just a shot in the dark.”

Shor’s shot in the dark — when pushed through our virtual unwrapping software pipeline — turned out to be the oldest Hebrew Bible ever found other than the Dead Sea scrolls and the only one ever uncovered in a Jewish synagogue. As such, it is one of the most significant biblical findings of the 21st century.

Using our pipeline, we restored and revealed the Hebrew text on five complete wraps of the En-Gedi scroll and made possible a complete textual critique of the writing. Thanks in part to the remarkable spatial resolution now possible with micro-CT, our resulting master image equals the best photographic images available in the 21st century, with an effective resolution of 1500 dots per inch. The high quality of our final result enabled Hebrew and biblical scholars to arrive at dramatic conclusions regarding the scroll’s significance.

One can clearly see in the master view the remains of two distinct columns of Hebrew writing. These columns contain legible and countable lines, words, letters, and spacing. Clearly restored is part of one sheet of a scripture scroll that contains 35 lines, of which 18 have been preserved and another 17 have been reconstructed. The lines contain 33- to 34 letters and spaces between letters; spaces between the words are indicated, but are sometimes minimal. The two columns extracted also exhibit an intercolumnar blank space, as well as a large blank space before the first column that is larger than the column of text. This large blank space leaves no doubt that what is preserved is the beginning of a scroll.

Armed with the extraction of this readable text and its historical context discerned from carbon dating and other related archeological evidence, the scholars were able to accurately place the En-Gedi writings in the canonical timeline of biblical text. The dating of the En-Gedi scroll to the third or fourth century CE falls soon after the period of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (third century BCE to second century CE)and several centuries before the medieval biblical fragments found in the Cairo Genizah, which date from the ninth century CE onwards. As such, the En-Gedi scroll provides an important extension to the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls and offers a glimpse into the almost 800 years of near silence in the history of the biblical text.

Scholars also noted that, based on their knowledge of the development of the Hebrew text, the En-Gedi Hebrew text is not vocalized, there are no indications of verses, and the script resembles other documents from the late Dead Sea Scrolls. The text deciphered is completely identical with the consonantal framework of the medieval text of the Hebrew Bible, traditionally named the Masoretic Text and which is the text presented in most printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, one to two centuries earlier, the so-called proto-Masoretic text, as reflected in the Judean Desert texts from the first centuries of the Common Eraera, still witnesses some textual fluidity. In addition, the En-Gedi scan revealed columns similar in length to those evidenced among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

For more information on the En-Gedi unwrapping process and results, please refer to the following publications:

W. B. Seales, C. S. Parker, M. Segal, E. Tov, P. Shor, Y. Porath, “From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi.” Sci. Adv. 2, e1601247 (2016).
A. Yardeni in M. Segal, E. Tov, W. B. Seales, C. S. Parker, P. Shor, Y. Porat, “An Early Leviticus Scroll from En Gedi: Preliminary Publication,” Textus 26, 2016.

Funding for this project provided by the NSF (awards IIS-0535003 and IIS-1422039). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. Additional funding from Google and support from S. Crossan (Founding Director of the Google Cultural Institute).

Original microCT and segmentation data is available to download from the Internet Archive.

The significant process we are making with fragments from the Dead Sea Scroll collection inspires us to keep working toward a comprehensive set of tools for revealing every manuscript in the invisible library. -- Brent Seales

When we saw Dr. Seales' results on the scroll from En-Gedi, we almost fainted. Never in our wildest dreams did we think anything would come of it. We had been certain it was just a shot in the dark. -- Pnina Shor - Director and Curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project at the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem


Charred manuscript is one of oldest known copies of Torah ever found
by Traci Watson
Special for USA TODAY
September 21, 2016

The completed virtual unwrapping for the En-Gedi scroll. A small, seemingly unremarkable burned parchment fragment found 45 years ago during excavations on the western shore of the Dead Sea has emerged after hi-tech sequencing as part of the Book of Leviticus from a 1,500-year-old Torah scroll. B. Seales

For decades, an object much like a burnt stick sat in storage in Israel, awaiting the day when its secrets could be divined. Now researchers have revealed that the blackened object is the one of the oldest known copies of a text fundamental to both Jews and Christians.

Hidden within the charred manuscript are verses from the sacred text called the Five Books of Moses. Also known collectively as the Torah, they are the foundation of Judaism and also integral to Christianity’s Old Testament. To scholars’ astonishment, the newly divulged text is exactly the same, in both letters and format, as text in modern Torah scrolls read by most Jews now.

The burnt manuscript dates to the 3rd or 4th century, according to chemical dating. The only older known Torah passages are found in the famed Dead Sea Scrolls. They date from the 2nd century and earlier and deviate slightly from the version of the Torah read today, indicating they were written before the Torah was completely standardized.

The scroll from En-Gedi. The seemingly unremarkable burned parchment fragment found 45 years ago during excavations on the western shore of the Dead Sea has emerged after hi-tech sequencing as part of the Book of Leviticus from a 1,500-year-old Torah scroll.

Researchers considered analysis of the charred scroll “a shot in the dark,” Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority said at a news conference. “And so when this came back as a … flattened piece of material (that) looked like a scroll, you can’t imagine the joy in the lab.” Shor and her colleagues report their findings in a study published Wednesday in Science Advances.

The scroll was discovered in 1970 in a Jewish village called En-Gedi, which was destroyed by fire around 600. Inside the community’s synagogue, archaeologists discovered a Holy Ark, the cabinet where Torahs are stored. The En-Gedi ark held charred debris that had once been sacred scrolls.

One of those chunks of debris, now known as the En-Gedi scroll, was given a high-resolution version of a CT scan. Researchers created a digital 3D model of the scroll and looked on every surface for bright spots indicating inked letters. The images were digitally flattened and then pieced together, unveiling the text of five complete wraps of the scroll.

“Sometimes you can absolutely pull a text back from the brink of loss,” said Brent Seales of the University of Kentucky, another author of the new study.

The text, from the first and second chapters of Leviticus, includes 20 verses in all, says study co-author Michael Segal of Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The verses describe the proper procedure for making sacrifices, reading in part, “The Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying: Speak to the people of Israel.”

The En-Gedi scroll is the oldest known Torah text to be found in an ark, the study’s authors say.

5 your offering. 3if his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, a male
6 without blemish he shall offer; to the entrance of the tent of meeting, he shall bring
7 it for acceptance on his behalf before the Lord. 4He shall lay his hand upon the head ...

Partial transcription and translation of recovered text. Lines 5 to 7 from the En-Gedi scroll.

The researchers’ method for peering inside the scroll should be useful for other old texts as well, such as the many fragile old manuscripts in the Vatican Library, says Vito Mocella of Italy’s National Research Council, who was not involved with the study.

“Finding a Biblical text from this particular period is very, very rare,” says Marc Brettler of Duke University says. Though the scroll “offers good and welcome confirmation” that the text of the Hebrew Bible “stabilized” by the 3rd or 4th century, it doesn’t significantly change scholars’ understanding of the text’s development, he added.

The study’s authors say they hope to see more of the verses from the scroll. But what they have so far are “just like modern paragraphs,” study co-author Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said. “This is quite amazing for us, that in 2,000 years, this text has not changed.”
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Postby admin » Sun Nov 27, 2022 11:45 pm

The Discovery of the Oldest Human Footprints in North America Thrilled Researchers. It Turns Out They May Not Be So Old: New research dates the footprints to a thousand years later than previously claimed.
by Vittoria Benzine
Artnet News
November 24, 2022

North America's oldest human footprints, found in White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service/U.S. Geological Survey/Bournemouth University, U.K.

A joint team of American researchers has contradicted previous claims that fossilized footprints found in 2009 in the Lake Otero Basin at New Mexico’s White Sands National Park are the oldest in North America—allegedly from the last Ice Age. The group’s latest work appeared in a recent edition of Quaternary Research.

Last September, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey radiocarbon dated Ruppia cirrhosa seeds lodged throughout the footprints. Their results implied the footprints were left between 22,800 to 21,130 years ago. Previously, the earliest-known human beings in North America were dated between 14,000 and 16,000 years ago. If true, the conclusion would upend all manner of assumptions in the field.

The team published its findings in Science last year. “This is a bombshell,” Ruth Gruhn, an academic archaeologist not involved in the study, observed. “It’s very hard to disprove.”

Charles Oviatt, a Kansas State University geologist who helped refute those claims, told Heritage Daily this week that he read the original Science article, “and was initially struck, not only by how tremendous the footprints were on their own, but how important accurate dating would be.

Radiocarbon dating on ancient ditch grass seeds found in the footprints determined that they were made up to 23,000 years ago. Photo by David Bustos, courtesy of White Sands National Park, New Mexico.

Last year, researchers acknowledged potential interference due to the “reservoir effect.” Underwater plants like Ruppia cirrhosa, an underwater ditch grass, can appear much older since they photosynthesize from the water, which often holds ancient carbon, rather than in the atmosphere, which would create a more contemporary picture.

Oviatt joined three colleagues from DRI, University of Nevada, and Oregon State University in arranging to test Ruppia cirrhosa samples archived at the University of New Mexico herbarium. They had originally been collected while alive from a spring-fed pond close by during 1947.

Leading commercial radiocarbon lab Beta Analytic conducted dating on those archived samples. Results dated the plants as 7,400 years old, “an offset resulting from the use of ancient groundwater by the plant,” Heritage Daily noted. If those results were skewed by 7,400 years, then there’s a chance that footprints at White Sands actually align with existing records.

“While the researchers recognize the problem, they underestimate the basic biology of the plant,” said Rhode. “For the most part, it’s using the carbon it finds in the lake waters. And in most cases, that means it’s taking in carbon from sources other than the contemporary atmosphere—sources which are usually pretty old.”

It’s all just the scientific method at work. “The original investigators went to some lengths to corroborate their claims and I am told they are still working on it,” Rhode told Artnet News. “They have publicly recognized the need for such corroborative evidence to convince the community at large. There is now and will continue to be much more work on this one.”
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Postby admin » Mon Nov 28, 2022 12:19 am

In a Heist Fit for a Movie, Thieves Broke Into a German Museum and Made Off With a Cache of Gold Coins Worth Several Million Euros: The heist is thought to have been carried out by professionals who cut off local phone and internet service.
by Jo Lawson-Tancred
Artnet News
November 23, 2022

In the case of the Met’s mummy coffin, Bogdanos got off the phone with a smuggler turned informant in Dubai and, by day’s end, had opened a grand-jury investigation in Manhattan. He subpoenaed the emails, texts, and handwritten notes of every Met employee involved in the coffin’s purchase.

What Bogdanos found “shocked the conscience,” he told me. According to an official summary of the grand-jury investigation, the Met had acquired the golden first-century-B.C. coffin, for $4 million, despite what Bogdanos saw as a sea of red flags: three conflicting ownership histories, the involvement of known traffickers, a forged export license that bore the stamp Arab Republic of Egypt before the country used that name. The Met had allegedly deleted emails at the dealer’s request and deflected questions from Egypt. Smugglers had so hastily disposed of the coffin’s occupant—an Egyptian priest—that the museum’s conservators found a finger bone still stuck inside.

According to a 2019 search warrant, the Met was the probable site of criminal possession of stolen property in the first degree, a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The intimation was that Met officials knew—or should have known—that the coffin was looted, but bought it anyway. (A Met spokesperson said the museum had been deceived by an “international criminal organization.” Though never charged, the Met apologized to the people of Egypt, reformed its acquisitions process, and forfeited the coffin to the DA.)

Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala in 2018, posing with a coffin that the Manhattan DA later discovered had been looted from Egypt (Landon Nordeman / Trunk Archive)

Over the past decade, Bogdanos and his agents have impounded more than 3,600 antiquities, valued at some $200 million. They’ve raided art fairs on Park Avenue, and Christie’s in Rockefeller Center. They arrested a dealer at the five-star Mark Hotel and seized statues on display at the five-star Pierre.

Tips from scholars, dealers, and other informants have repeatedly led Bogdanos to the Upper East Side. The enclave of old-money families along Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile is America’s worst neighborhood for antiquities crime. It’s a long way, culturally, from Bogdanos’s New York. He grew up busing tables at his parents’ Greek restaurant in Kips Bay, and his court filings are salted with sarcastic, class-conscious asides. The problem with “these gentlemen of stature and breeding,” he told one judge, is that they “would never be so gauche” as to check the legal status of ancient art before buying it.

-- The Tomb Raiders Of The Upper East Side: Inside the Manhattan DA’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, by Ariel Sabar

The Celtic-Roman Museum in Manching, Bavaria. Burglars have captured a gold treasure worth several million euros from the Celtic period in the museum. Photo by Armin Weigel/picture alliance via Getty Images.

Thieves broke into a German museum on Monday night and stole 450 gold coins thought to be worth several million euros, the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA) confirmed.

The police have not disclosed whether they have arrested anyone for the crime, but it has been suggested that the criminals were professionals who got away with the heist by disrupting local phone and internet services.


The ancient treasures are around 2,000 years old and were uncovered in 1999 during the excavation of a large Celtic settlement in the modern-day region of Manching in Bavaria, Germany. It was the largest discovery of Celtic gold in the last century and a landmark find at one of the most important archaeological sites in central Europe.

In 2006, the treasure was installed at the nearby Roman-Celtic Museum, which presents local finds from the Iron Age and Roman times. It became the crown jewel of the collection.


“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a catastrophe, the gold coins are irreplaceable as evidence of our history,” said Bavaria’s minister for science and art, Markus Blume, according to a report in Monopol. “Whoever did this, someone has violated our history.”

“The burglary must have taken place in the early hours of the morning,” said a spokesperson for the LKA. “It was classic, as you would imagine in a bad film.”

It is believed the thieves succeeded in part by disrupting local phone and internet services. “Professionals were at work here,” the local mayor, Herbet Nerb, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “They cut off the whole of Manching. The museum is actually a high-security location but all the connections to the police were severed.”

The local criminal investigation department for the city of Ingolstadt was initially called to the scene but the severity of the case meant it was transferred to the state police.

The site of the archaeological dig itself has also been known to attract thieves. In May of this year, individuals illegally dug some 140 holes that they presumably probed for undiscovered treasure. It is not yet known if they were successful and what may have been taken.

Germany has been targeted by several high-profile museum heists in recent years. A major jewelry collection, Dresden’s Green Vault, was hit in 2019, and the losses amounted to as much as $1 billion. A few days later, thieves broke into Berlin’s Stasi Museum, making off with medals, jewelry, and other artifacts. In 2017, a huge gold coin known as the “Big Maple Leaf” was stolen from Berlin’s Bode Museum.
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Postby admin » Mon Nov 28, 2022 12:36 am

Things Aren't What They Seem: Forgeries and Deceptions from the UD Collections
Forging the Ancient World

by University of Delaware
Accessed: 11/27/22 ... ent-world/

Forgery of an Ancient Egyptian Wooden Funerary Boat Model, [No earlier than circa 1834]– Museums Collections

In ancient Egypt, wooden models such as this were intended for use as funerary sculptures. They were entombed with the deceased, in the belief that he or she would use the boat to sail to the afterlife. These models were produced in large numbers during Egypt’s First Intermediate (2181-1991 BCE) and Middle Kingdom (2134-1690 BCE) periods. This model, though probably produced in Egypt, is a much more recent forgery.

The model is sculpted out of wood from Afzelia sp., a species native to tropical Africa and parts of Asia. The boat is painted with a mixture of calcium carbonate, iron oxide red, and carbon black, all of which were used in Egypt. In 1984, radio-carbon dating of a wood sample proved that the boat is, at most, only 150 years old. The individual figures could not be tested at the time: the radio-carbon test would have destroyed a wood sample roughly the size of one of their arms. (Newer techniques are less invasive). Stylistically, the figures are inconsistent. Some of them are in a rowing position, while others are positioned as if raising a sail, which is atypical of genuine funerary art. This could be a sign that the forger had no idea what he was doing. Alternately, some or all of the figures could be authentic ancient artifacts, culled from several fragmentary artifacts and reassembled to form a forgery that could be sold for profit.

Forgery of a Hellenistic or Roman Marble Aphrodite, [ca. 1910-1950]. Museums Collections

Greek and Roman statues of Aphrodite/Venus were common in the Hellenistic (323-146 BCE) and Roman (146 BCE – 330 CE) periods. They were used to decorate homes and gardens, fountains, public baths and gymnasia. This sculpture was probably intentionally created to look like a fragment, in imitation of a damaged ancient statue: the damage to the neck and the positioning of the legs suggest that the seemingly missing pieces were never there in the first place. There is no evidence that any ancient sculpture was intentionally sculpted to imitate a fragment, which ensures that this piece is of fairly recent origin. Additionally, the statue is sculpted from fine-grained marble, whereas ancient Hellenistic and Roman sculptors used coarse-grained marble. Stylistically, the statue is atypical of the ancient period. Its body proportions suggest that it was based on a living model. The ancient Greeks, by contrast, made sculptures based on ideal human forms, according to mathematically calculated designs. In particular, the statue’s drooping breasts suggest that it is a fake: an ancient statute would have presented them [in] an idealized form that ignored the natural effects of gravity.

Lekythos, Dionysos and Pappasilenos, forgery of an Ancient Greek artifact, [late nineteenth century or early twentieth century]. Museums Collections

This forgery imitates a lekythos, a type of vessel originally made in Attica and exported widely during the fourth century BCE. This one features Dionysos, the god of wine, and his companion, Pappasilenos.

Stylistically, this item is unlike a genuine lekythos. Authentic lekythoi usually have a conical mouth with a cylindrical neck or a trefoil mouth with one large spout in the middle. This vessel has a flower-shaped mouth. Dionysos’ proportions are also wrong for the period. In particular, Dionysos’ face is much smaller than Pappasilenos, which is much more akin to artistic styles that appeared in the Hellenistic period (323 – 146 BCE). This suggests that the forger may have patterned his or her work off of a variety of ancient images, without any understanding of how artistic styles changed over the centuries.

A very similar forgery was owned by Julius Naue (1835-1907), a German painter, illustrator, and archeologist, whose collection of ancient artifacts was auctioned in Munich a year after his death. The stylistic similarities between the two suggest that these – and possibly others – were made by the same forger.

Cylinder Seal, forgery of an ancient Mesopotamian artifact, [undated.] J. Ben Lieberman Collection of Seals

Cylinder seals were invented in the fourth millennium BCE near present-day Iran and Iraq, in tandem with the invention of cuneiform script. A seal was engraved with script and images and then could be rolled over clay to produce a copy of the inscription. They were used for administrative purposes -– such as signing or notarizing a document -– and were also worn as jewelry.

This cylinder seal is made from glazed ceramic material, which is unusual at best. Genuine cylinder seals were usually made from semi-precious stones. Stylistically, the engraved inscription and accompanying stick-figures are comically crude, and are unlike any particular artistic style found in genuine artifacts from the period.

Shabti with Hieroglyphs, forgery of an ancient Egyptian artifact, [undated.] J. Ben Lieberman Collection of Seals

A shabti is a small funerary figurine, commonly found buried in great numbers in ancient Egyptian tombs. Shabti figurines were intended to accompany the deceased in the afterlife, where they would work as servants and laborers for the souls of the dead.

Shabti were usually sculpted out of hard stone. This item is carved out of soft soapstone, which is, at best, atypical for this kind of artifact. The hieroglyphs carved into the shabti provide further confirmation that this is a crude fake. A genuine shabti was normally inscribed with spells taken from the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead. The hieroglyphs on this item are gibberish, and appear to have been copied at random.

Sphinx scarab seal, forgery of an ancient Egyptian artifact, [undated].

This item imitates a scarab, an artifact that was frequently used as an amulet and for administrative purposes in ancient Egypt. Genuine scarab seals were usually carved from stone or glass. This item, though, is made from ceramic material. Stylistically, it bears some similarity to other Egyptian sphinx figures, but a number of stylistic discrepancies suggest that this is a forgery. It is unusual to see the head of a pharaoh on a scarab figurine, and the facial features are, as well, atypical of the style.


The base of this scarab sports two cartouche carvings. (A cartouche is a ring encircling signs that name a pharaoh and his titles). One of the cartouches is an accurate rendering of the cartouche of Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE). Normally, the other cartouche would show either the pharaoh’s father (in this case, Seti I) or additional titles related to him, but, here, the other cartouche consists of random symbols and does not represent anyone. In all likelihood, the forger was copying actual artifacts and hieroglyphs, but did not understand what they said or what he was imitating.

Constantine Simonides (ca. 1820 – ca. 1867). Facsimiles of Certain Portions of the Gospel of St. Matthew, and of the Epistles of Ss. James & Jude: Written on Papyrus in the First Century, and Preserved in the Egyptian Museum of Joseph Mayer, Esq. Liverpool. London: Trübner & Co, 1861.

Constantine Simonides was a Greek forger who specialized in ancient and Byzantine Greek manuscripts. He often forged manuscripts by non-existent authors he had invented, which proved particularly tantalizing to scholars, many of whom were fooled by his creations. He began forging manuscripts in his native Greece, around 1845. After being denounced he fled to Germany, and then to England, where he continued to sell his creations. In 1860, facing arrest, he fled to Egypt, where he continued to make and sell fakes, up until his death from dysentery.

In this volume, Simonides printed facsimiles of what purported to be Biblical manuscripts on papyrus, dating to the first century. He claimed he had found them in the private collection of Joseph Mayer, in Liverpool. His story was far too good to be true. Among other things, he claimed he had discovered a manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew that had been written only fifteen years after the Ascension of Jesus Christ. Better yet, this copy had been dictated by Matthew the Apostle and transcribed by Nicolas of Antioch (an early church leader described in the Acts of the Apostles). (Even today, the oldest known nearly complete copies of this gospel date from the fourth century. Most scholars think it was written sometime between 80-90 CE). By this point, Simonides was well known as a forger, and this book was almost immediately denounced as yet another fraud.
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Postby admin » Mon Nov 28, 2022 2:30 am

En-Gedi (Heb. עֵין גֶּדִי)
by Benjamin Mazar
Accessed: 11/27/22

(1) An oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Judean Desert. En-Gedi (En-Gaddi in Greek and Latin; ʿAyn Jiddī in Arabic) is actually the name of the perennial spring which flows from a height of 656ft. (200 m.) above the Dead Sea. In the Bible, the wasteland near the spring where David sought refuge from Saul is called "the wilderness of En-Gedi" and the enclosed camps at the top of the mountains, the "strong-holds of En-Gedi" (i Sam. 24:1–2). En-Gedi is also mentioned among the cities of the tribe of Judah in the Judean Desert (Josh. 15:62). A later biblical source (ii Chron. 20:2) identifies En-Gedi with Hazazon-Tamar but this is rejected by most scholars. In the Song of Songs 1:14 the beloved is compared to "a cluster of henna in the vineyards of En-Gedi"; the "fishers" of En-Gedi are mentioned in Ezekiel 47:10.

In later literary sources, Josephus speaks of En-Gedi as the capital of a Judean toparchy and tells of its destruction during the Jewish War (Wars, 3:55; 4:402). From documents found in the "Cave of the Letters" in Naḥal Ḥever, it appears that in the period before the Bar Kokhba War (132–135), the Jewish village of En-Gedi was imperial property and Roman garrison troops were stationed there. But in the time of Bar Kokhba, it was under his control, and was one of his military and administrative centers (see *Judean Desert Caves). In the Roman-Byzantine period, the settlement of En-Gedi is mentioned by the Church Fathers; Eusebius describes it as a very large Jewish village (Onom. 86:18). En-Gedi was then famous for its fine dates and rare spices, and for its balsam.

Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260/265 – 30 May 339), also known as Eusebius Pamphilus, was a Greek historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. In about AD 314 he became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the biblical canon and is regarded as one of the most learned Christians during late antiquity. He wrote Demonstrations of the Gospel, Preparations for the Gospel and On Discrepancies between the Gospels, studies of the biblical text. As "Father of Church History" (not to be confused with the title of Church Father), he produced the Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus, the Chronicle and On the Martyrs. He also produced a biographical work on Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman emperor, who was augustus between AD 306 and AD 337.

Although Eusebius' works are regarded as giving insight into the history of the early church, he was not without prejudice, especially in regard to the Jews, for while "Eusebius indeed blames the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus, he nevertheless also states that forgiveness can be granted even for this sin and that the Jews can receive salvation." Some scholars question the accuracy of Eusebius' works. For example, at least one scholar, Lynn Cohick, dissents from the majority view that Eusebius is correct in identifying the Melito of Peri Pascha with the Quartodeciman bishop of Sardis. Cohick claims as support for her position that "Eusebius is a notoriously unreliable historian, and so anything he reports should be critically scrutinized." Eusebius' Life of Constantine, which he wrote as a eulogy shortly after the emperor's death in AD 337, is "often maligned for perceived factual errors, deemed by some so hopelessly flawed that it cannot be the work of Eusebius at all." Others attribute this perceived flaw in this particular work as an effort at creating an overly idealistic hagiography, calling him a "Constantinian flunky" since, as a trusted adviser to Constantine, it would be politically expedient for him to present Constantine in the best light possible.

-- Eusebius, by Wikipedia

After surveys of the area, five seasons of excavations were conducted at En-Gedi by B. Mazar, T. Dothan, and I. Dunayevsky between the years 1961–62 and 1964–65. The settlement of En-Gedi was found to have been established only in the seventh century b.c.e. with no evidence of occupation in the time of David (tenth century b.c.e.). Excavations showed that Tell Goren (Tell el-Jurn), a small hill above the southwestern part of the plain near Naḥal Arugot, was one of the main centers in the oasis beginning with the Israelite and especially in the Iron ii, Hellenistic, and Roman-Byzantine periods. Surveys of the area revealed that the inhabitants of En-Gedi had developed an efficient irrigation system and engaged in intensive agriculture. The combination of abundant water and warm climate made it possible for them to cultivate the palm trees and balsam plants for which En-Gedi was renowned. The settlement was apparently administered by a central authority which was responsible for building terraces, aqueducts, and reservoirs, as well as a network of strongholds and watchtowers along the road linking En-Gedi with Teqoa.

Five periods of occupation were uncovered on Tell Goren. The earliest settlement, Stratum v, was a flourishing town which had spread down the slopes of the tell dating from the Judean kingdom (c. 630–582 b.c.e.). Various installations, especially a series of large clay "barrels" fixed in the ground, together with pottery, metal tools, and ovens indicated that workshops had been set up for some special industry. This discovery conforms with various literary sources (Josephus and others) which mention En-Gedi as a center for the production of opobalsamon ("balsam"). It can thus be assumed that En-Gedi was a royal estate which ran this costly industry in the service of the king. This first settlement was apparently destroyed and burned by Nebuchadnezzar in 582/1 b.c.e.

The next town on the tell (Stratum iv) belongs to the Persian period (fifth–fourth centuries b.c.e.). Its area was more extensive than the Israelite one and its buildings were larger and well-built. A very large house, part of it two-storied, which contained 23 rooms, was found on the northern slope of the tell. En-Gedi at this time was part of the province of Judah as attested by the many sherds inscribed "Yehud," the official name of the province.

Stratum iii belongs to the Hasmonean period. Its famous dates are mentioned in this period by Ben Sira (Ecclus. 24:14). En-Gedi flourished, especially at the time of Alexander *Yannai and his successors (103–37 b.c.e.). A large fortress on the tell was probably destroyed in the period of the Parthian invasion and the last war of the Hasmoneans against Herod.

The next occupation (Stratum ii) contains a strong fortress on the top of the tell surrounded by a thick stone wall with a rectangular tower. This settlement is attributed to the time of Herod's successors (4–68 c.e.); it was destroyed and burned apparently during the Jewish War in 68 c.e. Coins from the "Year Two" of the war were found in the area of the conflagration.

During the Roman-Byzantine period (Stratum i) the inhabitants of the tell lived in temporary structures and cultivated the slopes of the hill (third–fifth centuries c.e.). It appears that at least from the time of the Herodian period the main settlement at En-Gedi moved down to the plain, east and northeast of Tell Goren between Nahal David and Nahal Arugot.

A Roman bath was found in the center of this plain about 660 ft. (200 m.) west of the shore of the Dead Sea. It is dated by finds, especially six bronze coins, to the period between the fall of the Second Temple and the Bar Kokhba War.

A sacred enclosure from the Chalcolithic period was found on a terrace above the spring. It consists of a group of stone structures of a very high architectural standard. The main building was apparently a temple which served as the central sanctuary for the inhabitants of the region.

Excavations (1970) brought to light the remains of a Jewish settlement dating from the Byzantine period. The synagogue had a beautiful mosaic floor depicting peacocks eating grapes, and the words "Peace on Israel," as well as a unique inscription consisting of 18 lines which, inter alia, calls down a curse on "anyone causing a controversy between a man and his fellows or who (says) slanders his friends before the gentiles or steals the property of his friends, or anyone revealing the secret of the town to the gentiles. …" (According to Lieberman, it was designed against those revealing the secrets of the balsam industry.) A seven branched menorah of bronze and more than 5,000 coins (found in the synagogue's cash box by the ark) were also uncovered.

[Benjamin Mazar]

Since the writing of the entry above by Benjamin Mazar, new archaeological work and historical studies concerning En-Gedi have been made. En-Gedi is an oasis on the fringe of the Judean Desert, situated in the middle of the western shore of the Dead Sea, in the rift valley, the lowest place on earth. The climate of the rift valley is arid and climatic changes have in the past influenced the flow of the springs as well as the levels of the Dead Sea. The source of the springs is in the aquifer of the Judaean Group of the Cenoman-Touron Formation. In the past, there were ten springs, but only four are active today: 'Arugot, David, En-Gedi, and Shulamit.

En-Gedi is mentioned for the first time in the Bible as Hazazon Tamar (Gen. 14:7), which was identified as En-Gedi (ii Chron. 20: 2). In i Samuel 23:29; 24:2–3, David took refuge in the wilderness of En-Gedi. En-Gedi is mentioned once in each of the Talmudic writings (tj, Shevi'it 9:2, 38d; tb, Shabbat 26a). The inhabitants of En-Gedi made their living from agriculture. They cultivated a very poor marl and stony soil with irrigation channels from the waters of the springs. They also collected salt and asphalt (bitumen) from the shores of the Dead Sea, as well as chunks of sulfur from the marl plains for the production of medicines. The main cultivations in this oasis were palm trees and barley; balsam, a cash crop, was also grown in the region. Writers from the Roman period praised the excellent dates that grew in En-Gedi and Judaea (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 13:6, 26; Josephus, Ant., 9: 7). The palm tree, a symbol of Judaea, was used as a motif on Jewish coins and Flavian victory coins. Transportation between En-Gedi and other parts of the country was dictated by geographical and political conditions. During ancient times En-Gedi had a strong connection with Jerusalem. During the First Temple period, En-Gedi was first established as a military outpost on the western shores of the Dead Sea over against Moab and Edom. Later maritime transportation was undertaken on the Dead Sea, as has been proven by the discovery of wooden and stone anchors, as well as of anchorages near En-Gedi and at other locations around the Dead Sea. Although sailing vessels have not yet been found underwater, drawings and graffiti of sailing ships are known from Masada and on the mosaic map of Madaba. The connection between En-Gedi and Nabataea, and later with Arabia, is attested by ancient historians, on the one hand, as well as in the Judean Desert Documents, on the other. Nabatean coins have also been found in archaeological excavations.

During the 1980s–90s a systematic archaeological survey was conducted in the area, and a number of intact burials of the Second Temple period were revealed and excavated. These were family tombs and the bodies were wrapped with linen shrouds and interred in wooden coffins, usually without funerary objects (Hadas, 1994). In the late 1990s a large area of the Byzantine village adjacent to the synagogue was excavated and many dwellings were revealed, all of which supports Eusebius' description of En-Gedi as "a large village of Jews" (Hirschfeld, in press). During this project the irrigated agricultural systems were also investigated and excavated (Hadas, 2002). In recent years (2003–5), a new suburb of En-Gedi dating from the Second Temple period has been revealed to the northwest of the synagogue (Hadas, forthcoming). Caves in the cliffs behind En-Gedi have also been surveyed, revealing Bar-Kochba coins and papyri in some of them, and much earlier Persian period ornaments in another. Additional excavations conducted in the area of the synagogue area (Hadas, in press) have shown that the Byzantine village was destroyed and burnt in the sixth century c.e. This was the end of the Jewish settlement, which had existed here almost continuously for about one thousand years. A gap in the occupation of En-Gedi existed until the 13th–14th centuries c.e., when a Mamluke village was founded at the spot and existed there for about a century. Remains of this period were found above the synagogue site and in the general vicinity. A water mill was also built at this time (Hadas, 2001–2) and it still exists near the En-Gedi spring. En-Gedi remained in ruins until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

[Gideon Hadas (2nd ed.)]

(2) Settlement in the Judean Desert on the west bank of the Dead Sea, founded by Israeli-born youth first as a *Naḥal military outpost in 1953 and later in 1956 as a civilian kibbutz affiliated to the Ihud ha-Kevuẓot ve-ha-Kibbutzim. Its primary functions were, initially, those of defense; but it also successfully developed farming methods adapted to the local conditions of a hot desert climate and an abundance of fresh water from the En-Gedi Springs. These are fed by an underground flow (from the rain-rich intake area on the western slopes of the Hebron Hills), which emerges on a fault line. An area surrounding the Springs has been declared a nature reserve because of the small enclave of Sudano-Deccanian flora existing there. A field school of the Society for the Preservation of Nature, a youth hostel (Bet Sara), and a recreation home are all situated there. Until 1967 the means of transportation to En-Gedi were by land or sea from Sodom, on the south side of the Dead Sea. In 1962 a narrow asphalt road was built and it replaced the 50 km. dirt road that was frequently destroyed by flash floods in the winter months. At that time there was a motorboat that sailed from Sodom to En-Gedi, and a medical doctor used to arrive once a week by light plane (Piper) from Beer Sheva. In 1971 an asphalt road was built northwards and connected En-Gedi to Jerusalem, shortening the travel time from En-Gedi to Tel Aviv, from 5 to 2 hours. The kibbutz economy was based mainly on tourism, including a guest house and medicinal waters. Farming was based on mango plantations, date palms, and herbs. The kibbutz had a 25-acre botanical garden with 900 plant species from all over the world. In 2002 the population of En-Gedi was 603.

[Efraim Orni / Shaked Gilboa and Gideon Hadas (2nd ed.)]



B. Mazar et al., En-Gedi, Ḥafirot … (1963); B. Mazar, in: bies, 30 (1966), 183ff.; idem, in: Archaeology, 16 (1963), 99ff.; idem, in: Archaeology and Old Testament Study, ed. by D. Winton Thomas (1967), 223ff.; idem, in: iej, 14 (1964), 121–30; 17 (1967), 133–43; Y. Aharoni, in: Atiqot, 5 (1961–62), En-Gedi; ibid., 3 (1961), 148–62; idem, in: iej, 12 (1962), 186–99; B. Mazar, S. Lieberman, and E.E. Urbach, in: Tarbiz, 40 (Oct. 1970), 18–30. add. bibliography: G. Hadas, "Stone Anchors," in: Atiqot, 21 (1992), 55–57; idem, "Nine Tombs," in: Atiqot, 24 (Hebrew; 1994); idem, "Water Mills," in: baias, 19–20 (2001–2), 71–93; idem, "Ancient Irrigation Agriculture in the Oasis of Ein Gedi" (Doctoral Thesis, 2002); idem, "Excavations by the Synagogue," in: Atiqot, 49 (in press); G. Hadas et al., "Two Ancient Wooden Anchors," in: jna, 34:2 (2005), 307–15; Y. Hirschfeld, Excavations (forthcoming).


En-Gedi Scroll
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 11/26/22 ... /90786164/ and [FOR PIX]

A section of the ancient scroll from Ein Gedi

The En-Gedi Scroll is an ancient Hebrew parchment found in 1970 at Ein Gedi, Israel. Radiocarbon testing dates the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (210-390 CE), although paleographical considerations suggest that the scrolls may date back to the first or second century CE.[1][2]

The first problem he hoped to solve was how to detect ink hidden inside rolled-up scrolls. From the late third century A.D. onward, ink tended to include iron, which is dense and easy to spot in X-ray images. But the papyri found at Herculaneum, created before A.D. 79, were written with ink made primarily of charcoal mixed with water, which is extremely difficult to distinguish from the carbonized papyrus it sits on.

-- Buried by the Ash of Vesuvius, These Scrolls Are Being Read for the First Time in Millennia: A revolutionary American scientist is using subatomic physics to decipher 2,000-year-old texts from the early days of Western civilization, by Jo Marchant, Photographs by Henrik Knudsen

This scroll was discovered to contain a portion of the biblical Book of Leviticus, making it the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark.[citation needed] The deciphered text fragment is identical to what was to become, during the Middle Ages, the standard text of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Masoretic Text, which it precedes by several centuries, and constitutes the earliest evidence of this authoritative text version. Damaged by a fire in approximately 600 CE, the scroll is badly charred and fragmented and required noninvasive scientific and computational techniques to virtually unwrap and read, which was completed in 2015 by a team led by Prof. Seales of the University of Kentucky.[3]


The En-Gedi Scroll was discovered in a 1970 excavation headed by Dan Barag and Ehud Netzer of the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University, and Yosef Porath of the Israel Antiquities Authority at the ancient synagogue in Ein Gedi in Israel,[4] the site of an ancient Jewish community. It was found in the burned remains of a Torah Ark in the ruins of the ancient synagogue at Ein Gedi.[5] Severely damaged by a fire around 600 CE, the scroll appeared as burned, crushed chunks of charcoal. Each disturbance caused the scroll to disintegrate, leaving few options for conservation or restoration. The scroll fragments were preserved by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), although for decades after their discovery the scrolls remained in storage due to their severely damaged condition.[6]


According to radiocarbon testing performed by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the scroll has a probability of 88.9% of dating to 210-390 CE and 68.2% of dating to 235-340 CE.[1] The scroll was written at Ein Gedi where there was a community of Essenes,[7][8][9] the Jewish sect made famous for their probable association with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The text deciphered so far consists of 18 complete lines and 17 partial lines of the first two chapters of Leviticus. The text is identical to the medieval era Masoretic Text,[10] unlike the Dead Sea scrolls which have variations from the Masoretic.[11] Michael Segal of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem described the scroll as being the earliest evidence of the exact form of the Masoretic Text.[12]


The ancient scroll was discovered in 1970 but was in such fragile state it disintegrated on touch and so was unable to be studied.[11][6] This led scientists to search for non-traditional techniques to reconstruct the text of the document virtually. This search led to the development of a virtual unwrapping technique developed by Prof. Seales of the University of Kentucky, which allowed scientists to virtually reveal the text contained in the En-Gedi scroll in 2015.[6]

The virtual unwrapping process begins with using X-ray microtomography (micro-CT) to scan the damaged scroll. This scan is non-invasive and uses the same technology as a traditional CT scan. In this scan, researchers used a high energy x-ray beam to pass through the depth of the scroll. Each material in the scroll will absorb the x-ray radiation differently, where the scroll will absorb this radiation minimally but more than the empty space around it, and the ink will absorb this radiation significantly more than the scroll around it.[6][13] This creates the sharp contrast we see between the text and the scroll in the final images of the virtually unwrapped scroll. When the scroll completes a full rotation with respect to the x-ray source, the computer generates a 2D slice of the cross-section, and performing this iteratively allows the computer to build up a 3D volumetric scan describing the density as a function of the position inside the scroll. The only data needed for the virtual unwrapping process is this volumetric scan, so after this point the scroll was safely returned to its protective archive. The density distribution is stored by the computer with corresponding positions, called voxels or volume-pixels.[6] The goal of the virtual unwrapping process is to determine the layered structure of the scroll and try to peel back each layer while keeping track of which voxel is being peeled and what density it corresponds to. By transforming the voxels from a 3D volumetric scan to a 2D image, the writing on this inside is revealed to the viewer. This process happens in three steps: segmentation, texturing and flattening.


The first stage of the virtual unwrapping process, segmentation, involves identifying geometric models for the structures within the virtual scan of the scroll. Because of the extensive damage, the parchment has become deformed and no longer has a clearly cylindrical geometry. Instead, some portions may look planar, some conical, some triangular, etc.[14] Therefore, the most efficient way to assign a geometry to the layer is to do so in a piecewise fashion. Rather than modeling the complex geometry of the entire layer of the scroll, the piecewise model breaks each layer into more regular shapes that are easy to work with. This makes it easy to virtually lift off each piece of the layer one at a time. Because each voxel is ordered, peeling off each layer will preserve the continuity of the scroll structure.[6]


The second stage, texturing, focuses on identifying intensity values that correspond with each voxel using texture mapping. From the micro-CT scan, each voxel has an associated brightness value that corresponds to a higher density. Since the metallic ink is denser than the carbon-based parchment, the ink will appear bright compared to the paper. After virtually peeling off the layers during the segmentation process, the texturing step matches the voxels of each geometric piece to their corresponding brightness value so that an observer is able to see the text written on each piece. In ideal cases, the scanned volume will match perfectly with the surface of each geometric piece and yield perfectly rendered text, but there are often small errors in the segmentation process that generate noise in the texturing process.[6] Because of this, the texturing process usually includes nearest-neighbor interpolation texture filtering to reduce the noise and sharpen the lettering.


After segmentation and texturing, each piece of the virtually deconstructed scroll is ordered and has its corresponding text visualized on its surface. This is, in practice, enough to read the inside of the scroll, but for the arts and antiquities world, it is often best to convert this to a 2D flat image to demonstrate what the scrolls parchment would have looked like if they could physically unravel without damage. This requires the virtual unwrapping process to include a step that converts the curved 3D geometric pieces into flat 2D planes. To do so, the virtual unwrapping models the points on the surface of each 3D piece as masses connected by springs where the springs will come to rest only when the 3D pieces are perfectly flat. This technique is inspired by the mass-spring systems traditionally used to model deformation.[6]

After segmenting, textualizing, and flattening the scroll to obtain 2D text fragments, the last step is a merge step meant to reconcile each individual segment to visualize the unwrapped parchment as a whole. This involves two parts: texture merging and mesh merging.

Texture Merging

Texture merging aligns the textures from each segment to create a composite. This process is fast and gives feedback on the quality of the segmentation and alignment of each piece. While this is good enough to create a basic image of what the scroll looks like, there are some distortions which arise because each segment is individually flattened. Therefore, this is the first step in the merging process, used to check if the segmentation, texturing, and flattening processes were done correctly, but does not produce a final result.[6]

Mesh Merging

Mesh merging is more precise and is the final step in visualizing the unwrapped scroll. This type of merging recombines each point on the surface of each segment with the corresponding point on its neighbor segment to remove the distortions due to individual flattening. This step also re-flattens and re-textures the image to create the final visualization of the unwrapped scroll, and is computationally expensive compared to the texture merging process detailed above.

Using each of these steps, the computer is able to transform the voxels from the 3D volumetric scan and their corresponding density brightnesses to a 2D virtually unwrapped image of the text inside.[6]

See also

 Herculaneum papyri


1. "En-Gedi Scroll Finally Deciphered - Archaeology, Technologies -".
2. A. Yardeni in M. Segal, E. Tov, W. B. Seales, C. S. Parker, P. Shor, Y. Porat, An Early Leviticus Scroll from En Gedi: Preliminary Publication, Textus 26, 2016.
3. de Lazaro, Enrico (September 23, 2016). "En-Gedi Scroll Finally Deciphered". Sci News.
4. Harder, Whitney (September 22, 2016). "The scroll from En-Gedi: A high-tech recovery mission". Sci News.
5. Watts, James W (2017). Understanding the Pentateuch as a Scripture. John Wiley & Sons. p. 77. ISBN 9781405196383.
6. Seales, W. B.; Parker, C. S.; Segal, M.; Tov, E.; Shor, P.; Porath, Y. (2016). "From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi". Science Advances. 2 (9): e1601247. Bibcode:2016SciA....2E1247S. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1601247. ISSN 2375-2548. PMC 5031465. PMID 27679821.
7. Pliny the Elder. Historia Naturalis. V, 17 or 29
8. Josephus. The Jewish War. p. 2.119.
9. Josephus (c. 75). The Wars of the Jews. 2.119.
10. Geggel, Laura (September 21, 2016). "1,700-Year-Old Dead Sea Scroll 'Virtually Unwrapped,' Revealing Text". Live Science.
11. Wade, Nicholas (21 September 2016). "Modern Technology Unlocks Secrets of a Damaged Biblical Scroll". The New York Times.
12. "En-Gedi: Ancient scrolls 'virtually' deciphered to reveal earliest Old Testament scripture".
13. Baumann, Ryan; Porter, Dorothy; Seales, W. (2008). "The Use of Micro-CT in the Study of Archaeological Artifacts". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
14. Bukreeva, Inna; Alessandrelli, Michele; Formoso, Vincenzo; Ranocchia, Graziano; Cedola, Alessia (2017). "Investigating Herculaneum papyri: An innovative 3D approach for the virtual unfolding of the rolls". arXiv:1706.09883.
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Greek handwriting
by Ruth Barbour and The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
Accessed: 11/27/22 ... th-century

Origins to the 8th century CE

tablet inscribed with Linear B script

The oldest Greek writing, syllabic signs scratched with a stylus on sun-dried clay, is that of the Linear B tablets found in Knossos, Pylos, and Mycenae (1400–1200 BCE). Alphabetic writing, in use before the end of the 8th century BCE, is first found in a scratched inscription on a jug awarded as a prize in Athens. The consensus is that the Homeric poems were written down not later than this time; certainly from the time of the first known lyric poet of ancient Greece, Archilochus (7th century BCE), individuals committed their works to writing. But the vehicles of literary writing have perished. Scratchings on pottery or metal and then texts deliberately cut in bronze or marble or painted on vases are, until about 350 BCE, the only immediate evidence for the way the Greeks wrote, and their study is normally treated as the province of epigraphy.

A find in 1962 at Dervéni (Dhervénion), in Macedonia, of a carbonized roll of papyrus (Archaeological Museum, Thessaloníki, Greece) offers the oldest example of Greek handwriting and the only one preserved in the Greek peninsula (end of the 4th century BCE). From then until the 4th century CE, there are countless texts, especially on papyrus. Found in Egypt and, with a few exceptions, written there, these texts have given a firm foundation for knowledge about the handwriting of the era. From outside Egypt there is a Greek library buried in Herculaneum, 79 CE; and papyri and parchments from Owrāmān, Kurdistan, 1st century BCE; from Dura-Europus on the Euphrates, 3rd century BCE to 3rd century CE; from Nessana, 6th century CE; and from the Dead Sea area (Qumrān, 1st centuries BCE and CE; Murabbaʿat and ʿEn Gedi, 2nd century CE). A number of original vellum manuscripts have survived from the 4th century CE onward, preserved in libraries such as at the monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai. These materials of diverse origin suggest that the forms and shape of Greek handwriting were remarkably constant throughout the Greek world, wherever writing was practiced and whatever material was used
; within this consistent framework it is occasionally possible to distinguish local variations (as between the contract hands of 1st-century-CE Dura and of Egypt).

The principal vehicles for writing were wax tablets incised with a stylus or a prepared surface of skin, such as leather and vellum, or of papyrus written on with a pen. Other surfaces—e.g., broken pieces of pottery, lead, wood, and even cloth—were also used. To some extent the forms of letters were affected by the resistance of the material to the writing instrument. It is likely that the use as a pen of a hard reed, split at the tip and cut into a nib (which had to be constantly sharpened), is an invention of the Greeks. Egyptian scribes used a soft reed, with which ink was brushed on.

Until about 300 CE, ink was usually made of a fine carbon powder such as lampblack, mixed with gum arabic and water, which even today retains its black lustre. Carbon inks were then replaced by iron-gall inks made from a mixture of tannic acid (made from oak galls soaked in water), ferrous sulphate, and gum arabic. There seem to have been several reasons for the changeover to iron-gall inks: they were easier and more economical to make, they could be made in quantity, and they did not flake off the surface of vellum (which was becoming the preferred writing surface of the time) as carbon inks did. Iron-gall ink does have certain drawbacks: it has a tendency to fade and oxidize over time, turning from a dark grayish-black when freshly written to a characteristic brown (which today is often associated with early manuscripts), and it sometimes has a corrosive effect on vellum, causing the writing from one side of a page to bleed through to the other. On paper, some iron-gall inks have actually eaten through the writing surface. Erasures, which could be made on wax with the blunt end of a stylus and on papyrus by wiping with a wet sponge, were more difficult on vellum written with iron-gall inks. Corrections were made by scraping the faulty text off with the edge of a knife, rubbing the surface with an abrasive, and then burnishing it to make it smooth enough to receive ink again. Sometimes when vellum was not easily available or was relatively expensive, an outdated text might be erased and written over. Since the ink actually dyes the vellum, traces of the original text often remain and appear faintly under newly written text. Such doubly written manuscripts are called palimpsests.

How To Make Papyrus Paper
Apr 21, 2013

A wonderful demonstration on the making of papyrus paper. Papyrus is a strong, durable paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, and is first known to have been used in ancient Egypt as far back as the First Dynasty. Cyperus papyrus is a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta.

Ancient Egyptians used the plant as a writing material and for boats, mattresses, mats, rope, sandals, and baskets. Papyrus is still used by communities living in the vicinity of swamps, particularly in East and Central Africa, people harvest papyrus which is used to manufacture, baskets, hats, fish traps, trays or winnowing mats and floor mats. Papyrus is also used to make roofs, ceilings, rope and fences.

Recently archaeologists have discovered what is thought to be the most ancient harbor ever found in Egypt, along with the country's oldest collection of papyrus documents.

The harbor goes back 4,500 years, to the days of the Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) in the Fourth Dynasty, the Egypt State Information Service reported on Friday. The Great Pyramid of Giza serves as the tomb of Khufu, who died around 2566 B.C.

The harbor was built on the Red Sea shore in the Wadi al-Jarf area, 112 miles (180 kilometers) south of Suez. The find was made by a French-Egyptian mission from the French Institute for Archaeological Studies, according to Friday's dispatch. Discovery News quoted the mission's director, Pierre Tallet of the University of Paris-Sorbonne, as saying that the site "predates by more than 1,000 years any other port structure known in the world."

The harbor is considered one of the most important commercial ports of ancient Egypt, where trips to export copper and other minerals from the Sinai Peninsula were launched. Egyptian authorities said the archaeologists found a variety of docks, as well as a collection of carved stone anchors.

The team also unearthed a collection of 40 papyri that detailed the daily lives of ancient Egyptians during the 27th year of Khufu's reign, said Egypt's antiquities minister, Mohamed Ibrahim. "These are the oldest papyri ever found in Egypt," he said. Among the subjects reportedly covered were the arrangements for getting bread and beer to the workers heading out from the port.

One papyrus is said to detail the daily activities of an official named Merrer, who was involved in building the Great Pyramid.

"He mainly reported about his many trips to the Turah limestone quarry to fetch block for the building of the pyramid," Tallet said. "Although we will not learn anything new about the construction of the Cheops monument, this diary provides for the first time an insight on this matter."

Papyrus was normally sold in rolls (volumina) made up of 20 to 50 or more sheets. These sheets were made by laying freshly cut strips from the papyrus plant (Cyperus papyrus or Papyrus antiquorum) side by side in one direction with another layer of strips crossing them at right angles. Sometimes a third layer was added parallel to the first. This “sandwich” was then moistened with water and pressed together until dry, forming a sheet. The layer containing the horizontal fibres was placed on the inside of the roll, on which side (the recto) each attached sheet overlapped the next when the roll was held horizontally. Leather, similarly, was used for making rolls (e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls). With the advent of the Christian Era, the custom of folding sheets of papyrus or vellum down the middle and stitching the gatherings of two or four sheets along this fold into a cover gave rise to a book of modern form—the codex (a word that originally referred to a set of wax tablets coupled with a leather thong).

Codex Sinaiticus (British Museum, Add. MS. 43725, fol. 260).

The early Christians deliberately chose the commercial vellum notebook (membranae) in which to circulate the Christian Gospels in preference to the traditional Jewish roll. Almost without exception the earliest texts of the New Testament are in codex form, even though written on papyrus, which is less able than vellum to bear repeated bending. In the 2nd century CE, pagan works of literature also appeared in this format. By the 4th century it became the predominant form, and codices with handsome margins, of dazzling white vellum, and of sufficient size to contain the whole Bible (e.g., the Codex Sinaiticus) were being produced.

The fundamental distinction in types of handwriting is that between book hands and documentary hands. The former, used especially for the copying of literature, aimed at clarity, regularity, and impersonality and often made an effect of beauty by their deliberate stylization. Usually they were the work of professionals. Outstanding calligraphy is not common among papyrus finds, perhaps because they are mainly provincial work. But the British Museum Bacchylides (discussed further under “The Roman period,” see below) or the Bodleian Library Homer can stand comparison with any later vellum manuscript from outside Egypt. Book texts are written in separately made capitals (often called uncials, but in Greek paleography, except for the time-hallowed class of biblical uncials, the term is better avoided) in columns of writing, with ample spaces between columns and good margins at head and foot. Punctuation (usually by high dot, a point next to the top of the last letter of a section) is minimal or completely absent; accents are inserted only in difficult poetic texts or as practice by children; and letters are not grouped into separate words.

Greek documentary hand. An authorization for the sale of slaves, late 1st century ad (British Museum, P. Oxy. 94).

Documentary hands show a considerable range: stylized official “chancery” hands, the workaday writing of government clerks or of the street scribes who drew up wills or wrote letters to order, the idiosyncratic or nearly illiterate writing of private individuals. The scribe’s aim was to write quickly, lifting the pen very little and consequently often combining several letters in a continuous stroke (a ligature); from the running action of the pen, this writing is often termed cursive. Scribes also made frequent use of abbreviations. When the scribe was skillful in reconciling clarity and speed, such writing may have much character, even beauty; but it often degenerates into a formless, sometimes indecipherable, scrawl.

Both types of hand, in spite of the different styles they assume at different periods, show remarkable uniformity and continuity in the shapes of letters. Behind both lies an unvarying basic alphabetic form taught in the schools. The more skillful a book-hand scribe was, the harder it is to date the scribe’s work. Documents in the ancient world carried a precise date; books never did. To assign dates to the latter, paleographers take account of their content, the archaeological context of their discovery, and technical points of book construction (e.g., quires, rulings) or modes of abbreviation. But they find of great service: (1) a stylistic comparison with those dated documentary hands that show resemblances to book hands, and (2) those cases where a roll was reused—i.e., has a literary text on its recto and a dated document on its verso (in which case there is an estimate for the literary text, generally no more than 50 years before the date of the verso) or has a dated document on the recto and a book hand on the verso (which gives a possible date for the literary text of not more than 25 years after the document). The number of illustrated manuscripts of this period is small; their quality is varied; and there is no agreement among specialists about the sources from which illustrations were taken.

Any historical sketch is bound to be a simplification. At certain epochs several different styles of handwriting existed simultaneously, so that there is no straight line of development. Moreover, owing to the arbitrariness of finds, generalizations are based mainly on provincial work; and, even in that, examples of book hand belonging to the 2nd century BCE and the 5th century CE are still relatively rare.

Ptolemaic period

In the roll from Dervéni, Macedonia, dated on archaeological grounds to the 4th century BCE, lines and letters are well spaced and the letters carefully made in an epigraphic, or inscription, style, especially the square E, four-barred Σ, and arched Ω; the whole layout gives the effect of an inscription. In the Timotheus roll in Berlin (dated 350–330 BCE) or in the curse of Artemisia in Vienna (4th century BCE), the writing is cruder, and ω is in transition to what is afterward its invariable written form. Similar features can be seen in the earliest precisely dated document, a marriage contract of 311 BCE. It has been argued that a documentary hand of cursive type had not yet been developed and that it was a creation of the Alexandrian library. Plato, however (Laws 810), speaks of Athenian writing whose aim was speed; later on, when a cursive hand had certainly been developed, documentary scribes often used separate capitals.

Thucydides manuscript, 3rd century bc (Hamburg, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, P. Hamburg 163).

Characteristic of its period is the contrast of size between the long letters (e.g., [x]) and narrow letters ([x]). And characteristic forms are to be seen in the letters [x] (with its long crossbar, often with initial stroke); [x] (upsilon) with long shallow bowl; [x] or [x] in three or four strokes; [x] in three strokes; [x] (alpha) raised off the line and its last vertical not finished; small round [x] (with internal dot or tiny stroke); and broad epigraphic [x] and [x]. In documentary cursive hands of this period, letters seem to hang from an upper line: [x] (alpha) often turns into a mere wedge, and [x] (nu) lifts its second vertical above the line.

papyrus loan contract

In the 2nd century BCE the contrast between long letters and narrow letters disappears, the writing grows rounder, and letters are often linked by ligatures at the top of their last vertical (e.g., [x]). In a loan contract of 99 BCE (The John Rylands University Library of Manchester), in which capitals and cursive are mixed, this irregular roundness is clearly seen. Note the ε with detached crossbar and the exaggerated serifs which have been elevated by some paleographers into a criterion of a special style, though in fact they are always apt to occur.

Roman period

Phaedo, by Plato, copied in ad 100 (London, Egypt Exploration Society, P. Oxy. 1809).

Half a century or so passed after 30 BCE before a definitely Roman manner was established. In documentary hands the tendency to roundness continued. Documentary cursive may be influenced in various ways (e.g., by Latin forms such as those of e and d, or by the exaggeration of verticals practiced by chancery scribes); the script may lean over in either direction, or it may be reduced to tiny proportions. In the 2nd century the cursive hand tended to be round and sprawling, in the 3rd century to become more angular, and in the 4th century to become characterless and to combine letters into ligatures that distorted the forms of the letters concerned. The book hand of a manuscript of Plato’s Phaedo (c. 100 CE; Egypt Exploration Society, London) shares the informality of cursive but regularizes the letter forms. Written on a larger scale and with more formality, this round hand can be very beautiful. In an example found at Hawara (2nd century CE), almost every letter (even ρ, τ, ι) would go into an identical square; only ϕ and ψ cross it above and below, μ, ω, and π horizontally.

The “severe” style. Bacchylides roll, 2nd century ad (British Museum, P. 733).

If this writing is made to lean to the right and to revive the 3rd-century-BCE distinction between narrow and broad letters, it takes on the aspect of the “severe” style of the Bacchylides roll in the British Museum (2nd century CE). If, however, the scribe makes the verticals or obliques thicker and his horizontals thinner, the hand is called biblical uncial, so named because this type is used in the three great early vellum codices of the Bible: Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus of the 4th century and Codex Alexandrinus of the 5th century. It is now certain that this style goes back to the 2nd century CE. Heavy decoration is also a feature of the Coptic style, of which there are examples as early as the 2nd century CE. This hand may be thought of as constituting a special case of biblical uncial.

Byzantine period

Informal Byzantine book hand, acrostic poem by Dioscorus of Aphrodito, 6th century ad; in the British Museum, London (P. 1552).

For the paleographer the significant division is not the founding of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in 330 but the 5th century, from which a few firmly dated texts survive. At its close a large, exuberant, florid cursive was fully established for documents; in the 7th and 8th centuries it sloped to the right, became congested, and adopted some forms that anticipated the minuscule hand. A favourite informal type of the 6th century is shown in an acrostic poem by Dioscorus of Aphrodito; it bears a clear relationship to the Menander Dyskolos hand, which was probably written in the later 3rd century CE. Similar pairs could be found to illustrate the continuity in transformation of the biblical uncial and Coptic styles. The latest Greek papyrus from Egypt is not later than the 8th century. There was a considerable lapse of time before the history of Greek writing resumed at Byzantium [Byzantion/Constantinople/Istanbul].

The 8th to 16th century

To judge when and where a Greek manuscript was written is as difficult for this as for the earlier period, but for different reasons. The material for study is admittedly more extensive; manuscripts produced in the Middle Ages and Renaissance have been preserved in very large numbers (more than 50,000 whole volumes survive, of which probably 4,000 or 5,000 are explicitly dated), and they include work from most parts of the Byzantine Empire as well as from Italy. The difficulty of the paleographer lies in the essential homogeneity of the material, which is largely the result of the conditions in which the manuscripts were produced.

The fully developed Byzantine Empire of the 8th to the mid-15th centuries was extraordinarily uniform in its culture. Its contraction in space after the Arab conquests of the 7th century, which cut off the more distant and ethnically differentiated provinces of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, made it a relatively compact geographical entity.
The continuity and comparative stability of a single empire not divided into distinct national states such as evolved in the West resulted in a strength and unity of tradition of which the Byzantines were always conscious and that shows in their habits of writing no less than in their literature and art. Distinct local styles and sharp breaks in ways of writing in different periods cannot, therefore, be looked for; characteristics that may be especially typical of one period emerge gradually and disappear equally slowly. A more potent factor than date or place in producing divergences in the style of writing is the purpose for which a manuscript was designed and what type of scribe wrote it.

Late uncial, 9th to 12th century

There is a gap in the evidence covering the 7th and 8th centuries, because of the Arab conquest of Egypt, the perpetual wars on all fronts in the 7th century, and the iconoclastic struggle among Eastern Christians during the 8th and early 9th centuries, so that no literary texts (and very few others) have survived that can actually be dated to this period.

Late uncial script, copy of Gregory of Nazianzus, ad 879–883; in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Grec. 510, fol. 61v).

During this time the evolution of writing in capitals (a style called uncial) probably continued toward a greater formality and artificiality. But this natural tendency was hastened by the introduction and spread of minuscule as the normal way of writing, after which the purpose of uncial changed completely. From an everyday hand in which all books were naturally written, it became a ceremonial hand used only for special copies and therefore grew increasingly stylized and artificial. In the 9th century a still elegant style was used for both patristic and classical works in splendid volumes destined for the imperial library or for presentation copies, such as the copy of Gregory of Nazianzus (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris) made for the emperor Basil I between 879 and 883. By the 11th and 12th centuries, capitals were used only for liturgical books, mainly lectionaries, which had to be read in dimly lit churches; but the increasing tortuousness of the style must in the end have reduced its usefulness, and by about 1200 uncial was dead.

Earliest minuscule, 8th to 10th century

By far the most important development that took place during the 7th–8th-century gap was the introduction of minuscule. There is no incontrovertible evidence of how this came about, or where. What scraps of evidence there are (a few documents from the gap, a few sentences in lives of the abbots of Stoudion of that time, and the first dated manuscript written in true minuscule) point to its development from a certain type of documentary hand used in the 8th century and to the likelihood that the monastery of the Stoudion in Constantinople had a leading part in its early development. Though its origins are obscure, the reasons that led to its introduction and rapid spread are obvious: the state of poverty resulting from wars and persecutions coincided with a shortage of papyrus after the Arab conquest of Egypt in the middle of the 7th century, and these factors combined to induce a search for a more economical use of the relatively expensive vellum; the polemics of the iconoclastic controversy demanded a speedy, informal style of writing; and, finally, when peace was restored in the middle of the 9th century, the revival of learning, with the reorganization of the university, brought the need for multiplying plain workmanlike texts for scholarly purposes.

Copy of the Gospels supposedly done at the monastery of Stoudion, Constantinople, ad 835; in the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg (Bibl. Publ. 219, fol. 124).

The earliest dated example of true minuscule (and it is probably one of the oldest extant examples altogether) is a Gospel written in 835 (Porfiry Gospel; National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg), probably in the monastery of the Stoudion. Here are found all the characteristics of the earliest minuscule, which is called pure minuscule because there is as yet no admixture of uncial forms, except occasionally at line ends. The letters are even and of a uniform size; letters are joined or not joined to each other according to strict rules, sometimes by ligatures in which part of each letter is merged in the other, but not to the extent of distorting the shape of either letter. There is no division between words, for the divisions are only those that arise from the rules for joining or otherwise of individual letters, and at this stage any letter that can be joined to the next one nearly always is joined to it. Breathings, which affect pronunciation, are square, either [x] [x] or [x] [x], and accents are small and neat; abbreviations are very few, usually confined to the established contractions for nomina sacra (the names and descriptions of the Trinity and certain derivatives), omitted ν at line ends, a few of the conventional signs for omitted case endings, and sometimes a ligature for και (“and”). The writing stands on the ruled lines or is guided by them.

Absolutely pure minuscule did not last long. Gradually, uncial forms of those letters that had specifically minuscule forms began to be used alongside the minuscule forms: λ was the first to appear, followed by ξ and then κ, all by the end of the 9th century. Then from about 900 onward, γ, ζ, ν, π, and σ were used regularly, while α, δ, ε, and η were used sometimes. Not before about 950 were β, μ, υ, ψ, and ω used, and still comparatively rarely. But by the end of the 10th century, the interchangeability of all uncial and minuscule forms was complete, though all the alternative forms are not necessarily found in any one manuscript. Perhaps the earliest dated manuscript with any uncial form in it is of 892/893 (Mount Sinai, Saint Catherine, MS. 375 + St. Petersburg, Bibl. Publ. MS. 343, Chrysostom), but pure minuscule continued to be used, in probably the majority of manuscripts, up to 900 and thereafter mainly in provincial manuscripts until the last dated example in 969 (Metéora, Metamorph. MS. 565, John Climacus). Besides the intrusion of uncial letters, some other characteristics of the earliest minuscule were modified during the 10th century. Rounded breathings, symbolized by the marks ‘ and ’, are first found in manuscripts of the last half of the century, interspersed with square ones. From about 925 the practice of making the writing hang from the ruled lines began to prevail. Although in most manuscripts abbreviations were confined to a few forms used at line ends only, a few copies dated in the last part of the century used nearly all the conventional signs.

Greek Stoudion minuscule, ad 890; in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (MS. grec. 1470, fol. 168). Greek commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus, ad 986; in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (MS suppl. grec. 469 a, fol. 7).

In spite of these developments—the gradual disappearance of pure minuscule and the other changes that accompanied it—the same general styles of writing persisted until about the end of the 10th century. Broadly considered, three styles can be distinguished during this period. There is a rather primitive-looking, angular, cramped style that may perhaps be associated with the Stoudion monastery, in which a certain number of mainly patristic texts were written c. 880–c. 980. Second, there is a plain, neat, workmanlike style (seen in a commentary on Gregory of Nazianzus copied in 986 that is preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris), which continued in use at least until the end of the 10th century. In it were written several of the important manuscripts that are now the oldest texts of some ancient Greek authors (for example, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Aristophanes) but are unfortunately not explicitly dated. Third, a consciously elegant, even mannered, style was used in books produced for the imperial library or for wealthy dignitaries, but it is not found before the early years of the 10th century. All of these styles, which have numerous variations and are by no means always distinct from one another, are found at least until the end of the 10th century. Their one common characteristic is a crispness and individuality that clearly distinguishes them from writing of the next period.

Formal minuscule, 10th to 14th century

From about the middle of the 10th century, a smoother, almost mechanical appearance can be noticed in an increasing number of manuscripts; the hands seem more stereotyped, less individual. They are not immediately distinguishable from the plainer styles of the earlier part of the century, and their evolution during the next four centuries was very gradual. A few distinct types can be singled out from time to time. A bold, round, heavy liturgical style, fully established in the 11th century, was one of the most enduring types; it became more and more stereotyped and mechanical until, in the 15th century, a branch of it was transplanted to Italy.

The style most widely used for biblical and patristic texts from the end of the 10th century, probably mainly in monastic houses in Constantinople, was one with plain, neat, rounded letters; this style became known as Perlschrift from its likeness to small, round beads strung together. A very plain, businesslike, rather staccato style was used in manuscripts with musical notation, most commonly in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Manuscripts written outside Constantinople are recognizable, if at all, usually by a rougher, provincial appearance. Only two styles can be assigned with any certainty to a specific provincial centre.
One, a small unpretentious hand used by Saint Nilus of Rossano, the founder of numerous monasteries in southern Italy at the end of the 9th century, was used for a time by others in that area. In the heyday of the reorganized Greek monasteries there in the 12th century, another elegant, rather mannered style, which almost certainly had its origin in Constantinople, is nevertheless found in manuscripts known to have been written in southern Italy and Sicily.

These particular styles, however, are not really as typical of the period as the less distinctive plain hands in which the majority of the manuscripts are written, at least in the 11th and 12th centuries.

The comparatively uniform type of writing of which all these were minor variations was remarkably enduring and widely dispersed, but, from the 11th century onward, certain changes may be observed that help to date manuscripts written in all types of formal minuscule. One change in its general appearance may be noticed as the 12th century advanced: an increasing lightness of touch and a lessening of the closely knit, rather thick appearance that is characteristic of the 11th century. But the most noticeable change in this period is the breakdown in the evenness and regularity of the writing, which is partly attributable to the influence of documentary and the later personal hands. It is not, however, entirely so attributable, for a tendency to enlarge some letters out of proportion to the size of the rest is seen in a small way in some of the more personal hands of the earliest period. But it is rare in formally written manuscripts, only gradually becoming more general until, in the 12th and 13th centuries, it is the most noticeable feature of even the most formal hands. In the 14th century and later there was a return to less flamboyant ways with the tendency to imitate earlier models more closely, but the habit of enlarging some and diminishing the size of other letters never died out.

In the actual forms of letters used in these formal styles, there was practically no change; very occasionally, from the end of the 10th century onward, one of the “modern” forms of letter normally confined to personal hands found its way into a formal manuscript. Much the same is true of ligatures. The tendency from the 11th century onward was to use ligatures and to join letters less automatically than in earlier times. The permissive rules and most of the forms remained unchanged, for, already in the 10th century, most of the distorting forms (notably those in which the ε is represented only by a C-shaped stroke; e.g., [x] for σε) were well established, and in formal manuscripts these, with the earlier forms, continued in use until they were illogically taken over by the first printers of Greek. Time did, however, gradually increase the tendency to join letters by insetting them in or superimposing them upon each other. Abbreviations were even more conservatively used, only the oldest conventional forms being admitted, and often only a very few and those only at line ends.

The rule that the writing should hang from the ruled lines, already applied in most manuscripts by the mid-10th century, became invariable by the middle of the 11th. Square breathings (used indiscriminately among the round ones) were gradually eliminated, though they did not completely disappear from formal manuscripts until the middle of the 12th century. The practice of joining accents with breathings and also with the letters to which they belonged spread from personal hands to formal writing in the 13th century, but it was far more often avoided altogether.

Apart from the actual writing, one development is common to all manuscripts written in this period: the use of paper instead of vellum, which occurred first perhaps in the late 11th century and was common by the 13th century whenever economy was a major consideration.

These are the main criteria by which a formally written manuscript can be assigned to an earlier or a later part of this period. But the problem of distinguishing different styles and their dates, and their places of origin, remains most difficult for these Greek manuscripts.

Personal hands, 12th to 14th century

From the beginning of minuscule, there were obviously educated individuals who occasionally copied texts for their own use in a formal hand that nevertheless had a distinctive personal flavour; indeed, professional scribes occasionally used a less formal style than usual. Several dated examples of this type of hand survive from the 10th, 11th, and early 12th centuries, but they are rarities. Toward the end of the 12th century, however, the prosperity and comparative stability of the Comnenan age (named from the dynasty of Byzantine emperors bearing the name Comnenus), with its brilliant literary and artistic achievements, gave way to increasing internal chaos and the hostile encirclement of Byzantium that was a prelude to the Fourth Crusade and the sack of Constantinople by the Western powers in 1204. Scholars perhaps already felt the pinch of poverty, which naturally grew greater during the exile of the Byzantine court (1204–61) and culminated in the economic crises of the 14th century.

Certainly, a change in writing habits began slowly to take place. Instead of commissioning professional scribes to copy manuscripts, some scholars began to make copies for themselves, and, in place of the smooth, mechanical styles of the professionals, they used the sort of writing that they presumably already used for personal notes. This was an adaptation (for greater clarity) of the type of writing that had been standardized in official documents from the beginning of the Byzantine period. Its chief characteristic was the greatly exaggerated size of certain letters or parts of letters, particularly letters with rounded bows such as β, ε, ζ, θ, κ, ξ, ο, υ, ϕ, and ω, and the excessive size of these letters is made to look even more unbalanced by some exceptionally small forms of, for example, η, ι, ν, or ρ. This essentially unbalanced, “wild” look was transplanted to literary manuscripts written by scholars for their own use.

Along with this exaggerated contrast in size between letters, they took from the documentary hands several new forms of letters that had gradually evolved from the originally common forms of both hands. In the 12th century the new scholarly hands began to use [x] with separate small bows; [x], with a broken back; [x], which had lost its high first stroke; and [x], which had dropped its first long downstroke; and, by the end of the 13th century, [x], with a short embryonic tail. The old forms of ligature were kept basically the same but in some cases were reduced to a barely recognizable minimum (e.g., [x] or [x] for ει) and in others were distorted by the general flourishing tendency of the script (e.g., [x] for επ). Abbreviations were naturally used with great frequency in all positions; the ancient conventional signs for suppressed syllables, which had acquired rounded and more flourished shapes, were used alongside a certain amount of “arbitrary” abbreviation in which a large part of a word was omitted and replaced simply by a general sign that some abbreviation had taken place.

Accents and breathings joined with each other, with letters, and with abbreviation marks are found earlier and more frequently in scholarly than in formal manuscripts. The only exception to the rule of round breathings in this type of manuscript is in cases of deliberate archaism such as practiced by Demetrius Triclinius.

Late medieval scholarly hand, grammatical works copied by Demetrius Triclinius, 1308; in the University of Oxford (New College, MS. 258, fol. 205).

One of the earliest datable examples of these scholarly productions is the copy of his commentary on Homer’s Odyssey (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice) written c. 1150–70 by Eustathius, the scholar-archbishop of Thessalonica. In the 13th century the exaggeration of especially round features reached its height, while in the 14th century the tendency, as in the formal styles of writing, was toward less ebullience and exaggeration, and the writing of scholars such as Triclinius is compact and sober. For these hands the problem is not to discover centres of writing or styles for different uses but to identify the hands of individual scholars.

The Italian Renaissance

By the end of the 14th century, Italian scholars were learning Greek, and they were bringing back Greek manuscripts from Constantinople. At this time Greek scholars had also begun to teach in Italy. The Greek that the earliest Italians learned to write was a clear, simple style taught originally by Manuel Chrysoloras (died 1415). But, although they copied a number of manuscripts for themselves in this hand, the style had no influence beyond their small circle.

Renaissance personal hand, Greek letter by Demetrius Chalcondyles (autograph), 1488; in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City (Lat. 5641, fol. 2).

Before long, Greek scribes began to go to Italy, and both scholars and scribes arrived in increasing numbers as the Turks pressed in around the Byzantine capital until it finally fell in 1453. They brought with them, naturally, the two styles of writing that had persisted throughout the history of the empire. On the one hand, professional scribes such as Joannes Rhosus (died c. 1500), the majority of them from Crete, copied an astonishing number of manuscripts in the formal—and by this time glib and stereotyped—“liturgical” style of writing. On the other hand, scholars such as John (Janus) Lascaris continued to write in a mannered personal style (e.g., a letter of Demetrius Chalcondyles of 1488 in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City).

It was on the scholarly hands that Aldus Manutius and other early Italian printers of Greek based their types. But perhaps the most enduring was that of a group of Cretan scribes who were employed by the French king Francis I in his library at Fontainebleau. The writing of one in particular, Angelus Vergecius, was used as a model for the French Royal Greek type, which has influenced the form of Greek printing down to the present day.
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The 'Co-Authorial' Role of Ancient Pupils, Excerptores, and Copyists in the Genuinely Menandrean [x]
by Elena Bonollo

From Defining Authorship, Debating Authenticity: Problems of Authority from Classical Antiquity to the Renaissance
Edited by Roberta Berardi, Martina Filosa, and Davide Massimo
© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston


1 An Authorial Perspective on the Corpora: Their Ascription to the Authority of Menander and the Contribution of 'Co-Authors'

The so-called [x] (or Menandri Sententiae)1 prove to be a very particular and apparently quite inconsistent case as far as the issues of authority and authenticity are concerned. In fact, the high value originally attributed to the figure of a precise author, Menander, to whom the whole corpus of these gnomic lines was attributed, contrasts sharply with the legitimation felt by ancient scholars and copyists to alter this corpus of maxims since the early stages of its transmission. In the following pages, I will hopefully clarify the cultural context of these operations and present some results of my comparative study between the monostichs gathered under the title of Menandri Sententiae and Menander's original lines. On these bases, I will attempt to classify the modalities of variation the [x] display and to understand the possible reasons behind them.

Certainly one of the most well-known and commonly used literary forms until the Byzantine age, the [x] have come to us in several different testimonies, papyri, ostraka, and manuscripts, including three redactions (one prepared by Maximus Planudes, another by Georgius Hermonimus, and a third one attributed to Gregory of Nazianzus) and translations in Coptic, Arabic, and paleo-Slavic.2 Before (and after) being gathered in collections, maxims were inserted in a range of genres, both poetry and prose, among which Menander's comedy was no exception. In order to explain briefly what is meant by sententiae (or [x]) and how Menander nestled them in his plays, a comparison to proverbs ([x]) might be of help.3 In fact, maxim and proverb share the same didactic, asserting tone in stating a fact, in recommending -- or warning against -- a certain behaviour, and both refer to that praised system of values operating in Menandrean plosts, in which the audience could recognize themselves. The differentiating element is the originality of the formulation: the proverb has an established fixed form which makes it an anonymous, universally acknowledged truth or a precept of popular wisdom, in quoting which our playwright is just one among many other authors.4 On the other hand, the sententia is a reflection newly shaped by the author and is connected with the textual context and dramatic situation in which he framed it. In some cases, the sententia has been later proverbialized.5

Considering then the numerous corpora in which the Menandri Sententiae were assembled and transmitted through 15 centuries, the question of the origin of such collections was raised. The previously established theory by W. Meyer and A. Korte postulated
a proto-collection (Ur-Sammlung), thematically ordered and including iambic trimeters from various explicitly named authors. This compilation gradually dissolved -- according to this theory -- into the many incomplete redactions we find in our sources, which have also been continuously deteriorated by the progressive inclusion of new, inferior material.6 Such a hypothetical reconstruction has become a matter of hesitation and debate among later scholars,7 and if an original nucleus of Menandrean lines may well be assumed, it must be acknowledged that additions, contaminations, and the fluid circulation of parallel groups of maxims began very early. Equally early in the history of such collections of gnomic materials, the corpora of [x] started being transmitted under the name of the one poet whose accessible language, ethopoietic skills, and moral principles were generally appreciated and popular in Antiquity: Menander. The two constant features with which these collections of maxims known by his name have developed in the following centuries are the alphabetical order according to which the sententiae are disposed and the limits of one verse into which the thought needs to be expressed.

Menander, however, must be recognized as the authority rather than the author of the entire collections of [x] attributed to his hand. Only a tiny section of the currently edited 1029 [x] is held to have been truly quoted from his plays, while the inclusion and/or re-elaboration of the remaining ones, as well as the arrangement of this gnomological work, has to be ascribed to a number of different figures who may well be entitled to be called 'co-authors'.8 In fact, over the long period of time from the 1st century AD, to which the first papyri we have are dated, to the 16th century, the collections and the texts therein underwent all sorts of alterations: extensions by means of additions of new gnomic materials, omissions, and re-formulations.9

The reason for this intrinsic fluidity of the [x] tradition is to be found in ancient school practices, since pupils used to train on maxims at all stages of their education: they started by learning to write and read with the texts of morally edifying sententiae at the lessons of the [x], and then honed their rhetorical skills by adapting or paraphrasing the same maxims in advanced [x].10 Commonly manipulated in schools, the gnomai were liable to re-elaborations by both sides of a school classroom: teachers (who often were excerptores, i.e. 'compilers', of their own copies of the Menandri Sententiae) and their pupils, [x] are therefore a good example of Gebrauchsliteratur, being copied with a practical rather than conservative aim.11 In their treatises, entitled Progymnasmata ('exercises'), Hermogenes and Theon -- just to mention two among many others -- explain and praise these practices, documented by the many papyri and manuscripts circulating in Greek-speaking schools up to the end of the Byzantine period.12 Identical learning methods were adopted in Latin schools, as Quintilian and Seneca the Elder attest.13

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers. -- English popular song

In English, the term ‘gnomic saying’ has a wide scope, including proverbs, riddles, mottoes, legal axioms and even the epimythia of fables.1 Gnome in Greek and sententia in Latin are used of both proverbs and moralizing quotations, but for clarity, I am restricting them to the second group.2 The boundary, as we have seen, is occasionally hazy, as poets give memorable form to common sentiments or attributable quotations become proverbial. As usual, when in doubt I follow the sources’ own view of whether a particular saying is popular and anonymous (i.e. proverbial) or has a known origin. The most famous example of a borderline case in this chapter is the Sayings of the Seven Sages. These, which should probably, properly, be regarded as anonymous and proverbial, overlap both with the Delphic maxims and with some proverbs, but they were so generally attributed to the Sages in antiquity that it seems perverse not to count them as gnomai.3

Despite overlapping vocabulary and some borderline cases, Greek and Latin speakers could and did distinguish between quotations and anonymous proverbs, and the overlap of identical material between anthologies of proverbs and gnomic sayings is tiny (a fraction of a percentage point).4 The definition of a gnome was of particular interest to rhetoricians. Hermogenes of Tarsus offers this in his second-century Progymnasmata:1
Gnome is a summary statement, in universal terms, dissuading or exhorting in regard to something, or making clear what a particular thing is. Dissuading, as in the following (Il. 2.24): ‘A man who is a counsellor should not sleep throughout the night’; exhorting, as in the following (Theognis 175): ‘One fleeing poverty, Cyrnis, must throw himself/Into the yawning sea and down steep crags.’ Or it does neither of these things but explains the nature of something; for example (Demosthenes 1.23): ‘Undeserved success is for the unintelligent the beginning of thinking badly.’5

Theon, writing his Progymnasmata a century earlier, does not give gnomai a section to themselves, but treats them alongside chreiai, distinguishing the two as follows:
A chreia is a brief saying or action indicating shrewdness, attributed to some specified person or analogy of a person, and gnome and apomnemoneuma (reminiscence) are connected with it. Every brief gnome attributed to a person creates a chreia. A reminiscence is an action or a saying useful for life. The gnome, however, differs from the chreia in four ways; the chreia is always attributed to a person, the gnome not always; the chreia sometimes states a universal, sometimes a particular, the gnome only a universal; furthermore, sometimes the chreia is a pleasantry not useful for life, the gnome is always about something; fourth, the chreia is an action or a saying, the gnome only a saying.6

Function is as important as form for these authors when discussing the gnome (and for that matter the chreia, reminiscence and fable), and the function of a gnome is explicitly ethical: it is useful; it tells you something about the nature of the world, or about what to do or not to do. This view is expressed as a commonplace in other authors. Dio Chrysostom, speaking on how to prepare oneself for public speaking, urges his listeners to read Euripides and Menander; among the virtues of Euripides is that he scatters his plays with gnomai which are useful for all occasions.7 For Plutarch, no-one is more instructive than Menander, while Quintilian, whose analysis of the sententia runs to thirty-five paragraphs, a formidable range of sub-types and an exhaustive discussion of when it is and is not appropriate to use them, calls sententiae lumina, lights which illuminate the nature of things or persons.8 Gnomai or sententiae are meant to be taken seriously, heard, read, marked, learned and inwardly digested, and then put to use.9

From the first and second centuries, well over a thousand gnomic sayings survive in anthologies, in manuscript or on papyrus, while hundreds more are embedded in almost every kind of literature. From Menander, the single most popular source of gnomai in either language, no fewer than 866 lines in Greek (to say nothing of Latin versions) have been collected, many of which are attested several times; many of these are collected in anthologies but most are embedded in other works of literature.10 Such embedded gnomai are often produced with something of a fanfare, complete with their source. So, for instance, Seneca the Younger, discoursing on anger, says, ‘What of the fact that fear always rebounds on its authors and that no-one who is feared is safe himself? That line of Laberius may occur to you at this point, the one which (spoken in the theatre in the middle of a civil war) captured the whole populace as if the voice of public feeling itself had spoken: “The one whom many fear must fear many.”’11 On other occasions, a gnome is introduced but the audience is left to supply the author. So Paul of Tarsus, in The Acts of the Apostles, woos the Athenians with their shared knowledge of Aratus: ‘From one man, [God] made every race of men to inhabit the whole face of the earth, and he set out when and where they would live, so that they would seek God and perhaps grope for him and find him -– though he is not far from any of us. For “in him we live and move and exist”; as some of your poets have said, “for we are also his offspring”.’12 Paul, in his own writings, is capable of an even subtler use of the gnome, as when he slips a fragment of Menander’s Thaıs into his advice to the Christians of Corinth, ‘Do not stray: “Bad company destroys good morals.”’13

Most quotations in literary works are not moralistic, and of those that are, most are grammatically incomplete -– a few words or a clause from a well-known passage -– or they are simply alluded to or invoked in passing, with an image or a familiar turn of phrase. These I have excluded from the analysis, on the grounds (parallel to those on which I excluded some proverbial phrases from Chapter Two) that a gnome proper is a grammatically complete sentence as well as a complete thought. Quotations of more than two lines (which are much rarer) I have included if they express a single, coherent moralizing idea, like the paradigmatic monostichs and distichs.9 This five-line quotation from Euripides in Aulus Gellius’ Attic Nights, for instance, qualifies: ‘What more do mortals need than these two things, the fruits of Demeter and the cool water of the spring, which are to hand and exist to feed us? All this does not satisfy us, but we hunt for other ways of eating in luxury.’14

Within anthologies, gnomai are easier to identify but often harder to date. Two important Latin collections, which have survived in manuscript and have some claim to have existed in the first or second century, are a case in point. The Dicta Catonis form a collection of sayings, some very brief and apparently modelled on the Sayings of the Seven Sages, some monostichs or distichs in hexameter verse, which was widely copied in late antiquity under the name of Cato the Elder. Some of these sayings were known in the first and second centuries,15 and a collection was in existence by the fourth. How far back we can trace them is harder to tell. Cato, consul and censor in the second century and a byword for moral probity since at least the first century BCE, was an obvious figure to whom to attach gnomai. (Plutarch, in his Life, attributes many more to him, some of which are translations of Menander monostichs; Seneca too quotes a ‘saying of Cato’ which does not appear in the distichs.16 ) There is no indication, however, that he wrote verse on a scale to produce this many gnomic quotations (though he left a number of prose works). There is, moreover, a suspicious absence of quotations from the Dicta in authors of the first and second centuries. Worse still, whatever the collection’s original form, it is clear that the versions which have come down to us are heavily Christianized. For all these reasons, I doubt we can convincingly identify any part of the Dicta Catonis as a collection in circulation in the first and second centuries, so I have not included it here.17

We are on firmer ground with the collection of Publilius Syrus. Publilius came to Rome in the mid-first century BCE as a slave.18 At some point he was freed and made his reputation writing Latin mimes which, like Greek and Latin comedy, periodically made use of a highly gnomic style. There is good evidence that he was known, quoted and admired in the first and second centuries CE. Seneca the Elder comments on his gift for apt expression; Petronius imitates him, and Gellius quotes a number of his sententiae.19 In the fourth century, Jerome learned his maxims.20 Like the Dicta Catonis, Publilius’ sayings were adapted for Christian audiences, prose material was added and the collection circulated in the Middle Ages in diverse forms. Over 700 sententiae, however, have been identified as original, and it seems plausible that they were in circulation in the first and second centuries CE.21

Gnomic anthologies in Greek present slightly different problems. Here we do have a large number of fragmentary texts, on papyrus, clearly written under the early Roman Empire, some in professional literary hands, while others are scholarly compilations or school texts. In this case, however, I have allowed myself to stray beyond my usual chronological bounds and include material which may date to as late as the fourth century. This is partly because it is not always easy to date papyri to one century, especially in literary hands, and many of the texts I shall be using are dated to, for instance, the second or third century, occasionally even the second, third or fourth. It is also partly because the accidents of survival and excavation mean that notoriously few papyri of any kind survive from the first century CE, and many of the best-preserved gnomic anthologies are possibly or certainly later than the second. Many date from even later than the fourth, and a few from earlier, but one can defend the inclusion of material from the first to the fourth centuries in a way in which one might not want to defend earlier or later material.

If we consider the whole range of literature surviving on papyrus during the Graeco-Roman period, we notice that across Egypt, a much wider range of literature seems to have been read under the Ptolemies than under the Romans. By the second century CE (outside one or two pockets of intense scholarly activity), a relatively narrow range of authors and texts survive in any numbers.22 Reading habits then seem to have been relatively stable until the fourth century, when the number and range of Greek and Latin secular literature begin to fall again (while Christian, especially biblical, material rises sharply). To include gnomic anthologies from the Ptolemaic period, therefore, in this analysis would be to include material which might well have gone out of circulation by the early Empire. To include collections from later than the fourth century would be to give too much statistical weight to their contents and potentially to distort the earlier picture. (One sixth- or seventh-century anthology, for instance, includes many gnomai about death (reflecting perhaps a Christian influence), which makes it rather different from earlier collections.23 To include it in the analysis would make death look a much more important topic in the early Empire than other collections suggest.) We can fortify first- and second-century material with texts from the third and fourth centuries, however, without serious danger of distorting the picture they create.

From the first to the fourth centuries, some ninety-five more or less readable texts of gnomic anthologies survive, together with a handful too fragmentary to yield more than odd words. Between them, they contain around 300 decipherable gnomic sayings. Most are not attributed in the papyri as we have them (though we rarely have the beginning or end of a text, where attributions most often occur). Around half, however, can be firmly attributed to an author and usually a work. The largest number come from Menander (or other new comic poets, whose gnomai tended to be dubbed ‘Menandrean’). The most popular prose works are ps.-Isocrates’ Ad Demonicum, Ad Nicoclem or Nicocles. Five texts can be firmly attributed to Euripides. Three survive from Plutarch’s Sympotic Problems and one each from (or attributed to) Hesiod, Philemon, Hermarchus, Moschion, Antiphon, Potamon, Aristotle, Aristippus, Diphilus, Pythagoras, Favorinus, Antisthenes, Chares, Chaeremon and Diogenes the Cynic – as eclectic a range of authors as was read anywhere in Egypt at the time. Between them, they are widely distributed across the province, showing that gnomic material was, geographically at least, more widely spread than any literature other than Homer in the Roman period.

It is common now -– when fragments of gnomologies survive only on papyrus, in the monumental, but more admired than studied compilation of Stobaeus, in the little-read late-antique manuscripts collected by Boissonade,24 in what are classified as minor Latin poets or in Arabic and modern European translations -– to underestimate their importance in the Hellenistic and especially the Roman world. To judge by the number of surviving papyrus fragments, however, the number of mediaeval manuscripts of some collections and the frequency with which certain gnomai were quoted by other authors, gnomai and gnomic collections were among the most widely familiar literary material in the Roman world – quite likely, after Homer (and possibly, in the west, Virgil), the most familiar material.25 Gnomai were among the first texts people read and copied when learning to read and write, so everyone with even the most basic level of literacy read some. Professional scribes made fair copies of them for wealthy patrons, and scholars copied them in informal hands. Where they were read, no doubt they were also quoted and so spread through parts, at least, of the non-literate population.26 Gnomai were familiar to anyone who read or had contact with someone who read. They helped to form the mindset of Greek and Latin speakers across the Empire, oiled the wheels of their thinking and coloured and vitalized their speech.

-- Chapter 4: Gnomai, from "Popular Morality in the Early Roman Empire," by Teresa Morgan

The process of alteration was continued by Mediaeval copyists. Having lost any connection with Menander, an author they did not know anything about, they could easily draw materials from various sources as well as from their own memory (following the mental associations the maxims suggested to them) and readjust them to fit into their collections of one-line sententiae. Similar operations of aggregation and adaptation resulting in collections of maxims might have characterized the ancient, pre-Mediaeval phase of the Menandri Sententiae tradition as well. In fact, the use of [x] in schools coexisted, as papyri attest,14 with their inclusion in proper books and, although this kind of compilations aimed at the conservation and the transmission of the Sententiae, it does not necessarily follow that the maxims could escape their inherent instability.15

The procedure of progressive additions of new material in particular requires specific explanations. In fact, a hypothetical original nucleus of Menander's authentic gnomai was extended with lines coming from two different directions. The first might be generically indicated as Greek poetry and includes other Menandrean quotations, as well as extracts from other authors, especially playwrights and, above all, Euripides, whose lines in the Menandri Sententiae are almost as numerous as Menander's. Materials from these authors could be either drawn directly from their texts or gleaned from other gnomological anthologies. On the other hand, as the aforementioned Greek and Latin testimonies attest, behind some additions there is the creative paraphrase by teachers and students themselves, who contributed to accumulate those similar lines, slightly varied in words and word order, that Meyer called Parallelverse.16 For example, Planudes' redaction of the Menandri Sententiae and the Arabic and paleo-Slavic translations of this corpus show that Menander's fr. 829 was included in the collection holding the same text which Stobaeus17 also quoted: [x] (sent. 314).18 Codex B (Par. gr. 396) of the Sententiae, however, presents a similar but not identical text, resulting in a variation on the same theme of the first [x] (sent. *314a).19 Instead of observing how sweet it is to have a father who does not show anger but wisdom, the maxim states that having wisdom rather than anger is a good thing for everybody.
Through minimal linguistic changes (as in [x] in place of [x]), the author of this second [x] varied the given line by generalising its content.

2 From Menander's Comedies to the Collections of Monostichs: variae lectiones as Consequences of Re-Adaptation

In such stratified collections, it is still possible to identify some gnomai which genuinely come from (and in some cases even actually are) Menandrean lines. The assumption that a [x] belongs to a play of Menander is in most cases due to the attribution to Menander of that same or similar text in the works of other authors, i.e. Plutarch, or gnomological literature like the Anthologion by Stobaeus and the Antholognomicon by Orion (these last two date to the 5th century, but they result from a gnomic tradition we can trace back to the 3rd century). These sententiae, which most likely originated from authentic lines of the poet, are the ones I examined for the purpose of my inquiry into the authorial impact of the interferences of readers and users on this material. Bearing in mind the range of alterations which the Menandri Sententiae were exposed to, we may well expect a conflictual relationship between the often-readjusted lines transmitted in the [x] tradition and those quoted by other, generally (though not always) more reliable, gnomic sources. Works like Stobaeus' Florilegium, in fact, may not be alphabetically organized (rather, thematically) nor do they only include monostichs, but the quotations are here often accompanied by the names of their authors and sometimes also by the titles of the works from which the passages were taken.20 Given this situation, the editor of Menander (and that of Euripides as well) would look for the original, unaltered text of the poet and would therefore most of the time accept and print lectiones transmitted by the other sources rather than the Menandri Sententiae. This is an undoubtedly rightful philological selection. The same perspective, however, was adopted by the editors of the Menandri Sententiae, who looked to their variants from the original as mistakes to be emended and expunged many parallel lines, believing themselves to be bringing back the ideal of the Ur-Sammlung made of intact lines of comedy and tragedy.

Sent. 622 provides an effective demonstration of the criteria according to which the [x] were edited by Meineke (1823), Jakel (1964) and even Liapis (2002). Stobaeus's manuscripts and the Menandri Sententiae's manuscripts are here the two sources for Menander's fr. 813 [x] ('where women are, there all evils are') and transmit two different lectiones; [x] and [x], respectively.21 In the last edition of the fragment by Kassel and Austin quoted here, as well in the former ones, the lectio rightly accepted in the fragment has been Stobaeus' metrically correct [x]. The same adverb, however, was also printed instead of [x] in the text of every edition of the Menandri Sententiae until 2008, as a consequence of scholars' attempt to make the [x] identical to the original texts from which they had been taken. In these editions, Stobaeus's textual tradition and the scholars' ars emendandi replace de facto the Sententiae's codices in establishing their own text. Such an operation totally refutes the 'co-authorial' role of teachers and copyists and obscures the century-old tradition of the sententiae in the lines of the plays by the original author.

In a gradual dissociation from this interpretative and editorial standpoint, in recent years huge scholarly progress has produced helpful results and materials for research into the Menandri Sententiae. Three main achievements are worth being emphasized:

• the in-depth inquiry into the educational purposes and modes of use of the Menandri Sententiae in school practices;
• the edition and re-edition of a great number of papyri and ostraka containing the [x] (principally the recent, co-written volume for the Corpus of Greek and Latin Philosophical Papyri [CPF 2015]);
C. Pernigotti's masterful edition of the Menandri Sententiae which came out in 2008. The improvement of this edition consists of Pernigotti's new methodological approach, which aims to present the [x] as they were read, copied, and used in the Menandri Sententiae tradition. This means that he does not emend the [x] containing either indifferent or meaningful textual variants from the original, authorial lines, he does not correct the metrically wrong sententiae, and he includes the maxims created as variations of other [x]. The impact on the Sententiae of the many hands through which the collections passed needs to be recognized and made clear by printing in the very text of the maxims (instead of just in the apparatus) the final results of the intervention of those anonymous scholars and copyists whom we have called 'co-authors'.22 In fact, going back to the previous example of sent. 622. in his edition Pernigotti recovers and re-establishes in the text the lectio of the manuscripts of the Sententiae, [x].

Being now allowed to work on the sententiae standing on this philologically solid ground, the inquiry about the development of these texts may be taken a little further.
After having identified the 'authors' involved and having illustrated part of the reasons for their intervention (use in schools and textual instability intrinsic to the genre), I will now attempt to analyze how the sententiae were altered.23 To reach reliable conclusions, I made a complete comparison between the texts transmitted in the collections of Menandri Sententiae and the similar ones which presumably are Menandrean (that is, lines of the poet's better preserved plays as well as lines Kassel and Austin published as authentic fragments of Menander's comedies).24 The results consist of a typological classification of the variations, which is structured in three main categories. Each category contains related typologies of variants, which will be synthetically exposed and exemplified with some fragment-sententia pairs.25

2.1 Typologies of Variants

The first category includes linguistic alterations. They represent the less evident divergences since they cannot always be plainly ascribed to a conscious intentionality of the copyists, but are still clear signals of an adaptation process. These alterations may consist of synonymic replacements, and their connection with the long tradition of the Sententiae is particularly evident when manuscripts bear a different text from papyri and Stobaeus alike. In fact, in the majority of cases papyri display the same lectio which Stobaeus transmits and which most likely was in the original Menandrean text, too. Therefore, the papyrus tradition of the [x] proves to be closer to the original nucleus of maxims excerpted from the poet's works, while the manuscript tradition of the Menandri Sententiae bears signs of use and contains variants.26

Even minor cases of language alterations, mostly made automatically and with no intention of modifying the meaning of the maxim, are small linguistic updates which facilitate the fruition of the [x] in the later centuries of circulation of the collections. Among them, we can mention [x] instead of [x].27

Other, more substantial forms of linguistic simplification, aiming for a more immediate comprehension of the moral content of the maxim, concern morphological agreement and word order. As for the first one, the change from the neuter adjective in the original line to the adjective agreeing in gender with the noun is very common in the sententiae. For example, in the case of fr. 808 [x],28  Menander's neuter [x], which gives the meaning 'what an unreliable thing is women's nature', was replaced in sent. 860 (codd. K V [of the b family], codd. Plan.) by the feminine [x], agreeing with [x], obtaining the more direct 'how unreliable is women's nature'.29 A similar call for more clarity may cause a re-disposition of the elements in the sentence, an operation which implies a clear intentionality from the writer. For example, starting from Men. fr. 720 [x]30 the morphological agreement between the initial adjective [x] and the final substantive[x] was made more easily recognizable in sent. 206 by transferring [x] to the second position, right next to its adjective, avoiding the hyperbaton and obtaining: [x]; as a result, the maxim is not a regular iambic trimeter.

Turning now to more significant categories of variations, the second typology pertains to the formal and stylistic features of a [x]. As the definition [x], valid for every Menandrean maxim, states, an essential characteristic of the Sententiae is their being complete in terms of both content and grammar in one iambic trimeter. As a consequence of this intrinsic condition, teachers and pupils, or Mediaeval compilers, who added new material to the collections by adapting or creating new maxims, were forced to re-cast into a freestanding monostich the two or more lines (or an incomplete one) from which they were deriving the [x]. An example of this adjustment applied to Menander's text is sent. *929 [x], which was derived from the second line of Arrephoros (or Auletris) fr. 70 [x].31 In the text of the poet, transmitted by ps.- Justin,32 the complete sentence is: [x] ('the intellect is god speaking'). When it was made a sententia, however, it is conceivable that an excerptor, consciously or not, extended that sentence by including in it the first word of the line, [x]: it belongs to the previous phrase in the Arrephoros, but was incorporated in the next one, obtaining a complete line. Thus, a new [x] was formed. To suit the new context, [x] was changed into [x], agreeing with the subject [x]. Moreover, in the same or in a subsequent alteration of the [x], the final nominative [x] was replaced by a dative, bringing about a change in meaning, since the resulting maxim can be translated as 'the sacred intellect is that which speaks to God'.33

A second stylistic trait of many exhortative gnomai is the protreptic [an utterance designed to instruct and persuade] tone conveyed by the imperative [giving an authoritative command] mode. Sent. 685 shows that it was even possible to create a [x] by introducing an imperative verb in a Menandrean line, Dysk. 797 in this case, quoted in Stobaeus' Antholgion: [x]. In fact, the narrative [x] of the poet's line was replaced by the prohibitive [x] when it was added to the Sententiae collection.34

Finally, we turn to the third category of variations, those modifying the content of the original verse. Such alterations are often the inevitable effects of the loss of the dramatic context in which the line is pronounced by a character in a play. In fact, once a line is taken out of its scene, it may appear senseless, its meaning might become unintelligible or it may contain references to characters and dialogic situations which must be removed to give the sentence that generalized addressee it needs to be introduced among the [x]. A simple example of these alterations is Epit. 704 [x] ('the only virtue is staying always away from that mad man'),35 which was included in the corpus of the [x]36 once it was deprived of the mention of [x]. In the play, with this definition Smikrines was referring to Charisius while admonishing his daughter Pamphila to leave him, the husband she loves. [x] is the text transmitted by Orion and it certainly suits the dramatic situation of the father-daughter dialogue, but it was changed into the neuter [x] when the line entered the Menandri Sententiae corpus as a generalized, self-standing statement 'the only virtue is staying always away from strangeness' (sent. 464).37 Another example of decontextualization is a famous and debated one from the Dis exapaton: fr. 3 Blanchard (= 4 Sandbach, 4 Arnott, 3 Austin) [x] ('he whom the gods love dies young').38 The line corresponds to the Latin ironic joke told by the slave Chrysalus to his old master in Plautus' Bacchides 816-7. The Plautine passage of ll. 816-21 deserves to be quoted in its full length:

quem di diligunt
adulescens moritur, dum valet, sentit, sapit.
Hunc si ullus deus amaret, plus annis decem,
plus iam viginti mortuum esse oportuit:
†terrae odium† ambulat, iam nil sapit
nec sentit, tantist quantist fungus putidus.

[Google translate: whom the gods love he dies young, while he is strong, feels, and wise. If any god would love him, ten years more He must have been dead for twenty years. †The hatred of the earth† walks, he no longer knows anything and he does not feel, how much the fungus is putrid.

In these lines, the sarcastic tone used by Chrysalus in his provocation to the master becomes clear: the old Nicobulus would have died twenty years ago 'if any god had favoured him', so that he would not have become of as much value as a rotten mushroom, incapable of judgment and sense. Adopting the optic of re-use and re-interpretation to which the Menandri Sententiae were subject, scholars generally suggest interpreting the original Menandrean line according to the derisory spirit of Plautus' slave, believing it likely that, in the comic context of Menander's play, the sentence was not meant to be a disenchanted reflection on human existence, as the maxim will later be read, but a satirical remark aimed at making fun of the foolish old man.39 Once the line was de-contextualized and read as a self-standing monostich (sent. 583 [x]), its philosophic message was stripped of any irony due to its comic frame and wholly resumed the seriousness of the sense with which observations like this one had already appeared in Homer and Herodotus.60

Moreover, even leaving aside the question of the original meaning of the line in the Dis exapaton, sent. 583 displays another possible mode of content change, which is the last point of the typological analysis proposed here; Christianization, by which I mean the adjustment of a maxim in such a way that it becomes compatible with Christian morality. In this case, the Dis exapaton line was made acceptable by replacing the plural [x] of the original line with the unique Christian [x] of the [x]; in fact, the plural [x] is attested in the ancient authors (Plut., Clem. Al., Stob., schol. Hom., Eust.) and is the lectio accepted in Menander's fragment, while the singular, Christian [x] is the variant of the Sententiae manuscripts (cod. A. codd. Plan., codd. Slavic translation [286]).41 The consequent change from the plural [x] to the singular [x] makes the line metrically defective.

3 Conclusions

By considering these examples of [x] in terms of their relationship to the original Menandrean lines, I hope to have shown how deeply entrenched in the [x] tradition was the coexistence of the authoritative dignity recognized to Menander, to whom the collections were entitled, and the copyists' readiness to alter his texts. The considerations expressed aimed to improve our understanding of the genesis of the Menandri Sententiae and to increase the awareness of their function and significance for the ancient users who 'co-authored' them. In fact, variants must be regarded as the result of re-elaborations, whether minimal or considerable, and their frequency implies the opportuneness of registering them as an intrinsic feature of the Menandri Sententiae, which ought not to be emendated. These variae lectiones make the original line of the poet and the sententia two distinct texts, following distinct traditions and used in different occasions and for different goals. A maxim and the Menandrean line from which it was derived must not, therefore, be reduced to one text, and the [x] needs to be maintained as an autonomous version. The fragments of the poet's comedies certainly need to be re-established in the form we judge to be closer to their originals by choosing the 'more Menandrean' lectiones, while the texts of the Sententiae need to keep reflecting, in their manifold variants, the contributions of the 'co-authors'. This principle has recently become the cornerstone of every research on the Menandri Sententiae.

In such a scenario -- I would like to add -- the study of the most recurrent typologies of variants is of valuable help both in recognizing the lectio which probably was in the original line of Menander and in understanding the reasons behind the modifications we find in the sententia. Hence, I hope that the classification and the Menandrean examples discussed here may be used as a guideline to examine other cases (concentrating on other authors as well) and as a reminder of the necessity to always bear in mind the users' continuous efforts to make the maxims suitable to their current needs. From the point of view of alterations in accord with readers' changing needs, in fact, not only did the conformity forged by copyists guarantee that a [x] was copied and transmitted throughout the Middle Ages, but it also allowed a sententia to maintain its effectiveness as a widely shared maxim in tune with the values of the time it reflected. All the minor and significant variations I have examined enabled this fortunate work to run through so many centuries; by altering the gnomai, the 'co-authors' made them a perpetual mirror of their changed purposes, language, and values, conserving in the title little more than a memory of the consolidated authority of the 4th century BC comedy writer Menander.



1 The [x] will be quoted according to the numeration of Jakel's reference edition of 1964, followed by Pernigotti in his updated and augmented edition of 2008. Asterisks added before the numbers of the maxims distinguish the sententiae added by Pernigotti to Jakel's corpus; the various typologies of these additions (including doubles, [x] attested in newly discovered papyri and manuscripts, sententiae extracted from the translations) are described by Pernigotti (2008) 31-33. All Menander's fragments will be referred to in conformity with Kassel and Austin's edition.
2 On such a varied tradition, cf. Pernigotti (2000); Pernigotti (2003a) 121-2: Pernigotti (2005)  420-7; Martinelli (2007) 678: Pernigotti (2008) 39-87, 101-9, 153-7; Pernigotti (2015) 111-4.
3 On this issue cf. especially the studies of Schirru (2004), from which I took the examples presented in the following note, and Schirru (2010) 215-6; concerning the relationship between the gnomic tradition and the paroemiographic [the making of collections of proverbs] tradition, cf. also Tosi (2014) and, on the practice of excerpere, Konstan (2011). Finally, cf. Schirru (2010) 223-6 for the formal features of Menander's gnomic lines.
4 See, e.g., Men. Epit. 251-3 [x]: the saying 'night brings counsel' mentioned here is already implied  in Phocylides (fr. 8 D. [x]) and in Herodotus (7.12.1 [x]), even two centuries before Menander (later, the proverb was  also included in paroemiographers' collections. cf. Zenob. 3.97 = Diogen. 5.95 = Apost. 7.47 =  Arsen. 23.89 [x]).
5 The [x] of Georg. fr. 3.5 Blanchard (= 2.5 Sandbach, 2.5 Arnott, 1.5 Austin) [x]  seems to provide an example of such fortune as its being quoted in Stobaeus,  Et. M. 685 38 s.v. [x] and various scholia (schol. Hom. Od. 4. schol. Soph. OT 1191, schol. Eur. Or. 343) suggests.
6 See Meyer (1881) 402-3; Korte (1931) 716-7.
7 See in particular Ullmann (1961) 2; Pernigotti (2000) 226-8; Liapis (2002) 72: Liapis (2007) 261-2.
8 The expression was first employed by Liapis (2007) 292, who acknowledged that a reader of the [x] had 'the function of a 'co-author', or rather of a 'performer', who reformulates the text even as he reproduces it'.
9 For a general presentation of these collections of monostichs. cf. the works of Marino Sanchez-Elvira/Garcia Romero (1999) 356-60: Pernigotti (2000); Pernigotti (2003b) 187; Pernigotti (2003c) 48-49; Liapis (2007) 262-3; Pernigotti (2008) 11-16; Pernigotti (2010) 231-3; Pernigotti (2011): Nervegna (2014) 205-9: Pernigotti (2015); Martina (2016) 346-7; Piccione (2017) 6.
10 Cf. Easterling (1995) 155; Cribiore (1996) 44-45: Morgan (1998) 122-3 (see also 124-44 containing  a presentation of the maxims recurrent themes and motives); Cribiore (2001) 178-9, 199-200:  Liapis (2007) 287-91; Nocchi (2012); Nervegna (2014) 202-5.
11 This aspect is highlighted also by Piccione (2004) 403; Easterling (1995) 159.
12 Cf. the list of school exercises on papyri and ostraka completed by Cribiore (1997) 59 and the examples described by Funghi (2003b) 5-13.
13 See, e.g., Quint. Inst. 1.9.2-3, which conveys an idea of the importance of a skillful paraphrase of Alsop's fables and of the composition of sententiae as didactic aids; another passage, Inst. 10.5.4-5, testifies in what high regard the exercise of creative variation was held ('et ipsis sententiis adiicere licet oratorium robur et omissa supplere, effusa substringere. Neque ego paraphrasim esse interpretationem tantum volo, sed circa eosdem sensus certamen atque aemulationem' [Google translate: and to the sentences themselves it is permissible to add strength to the oratory and to supplement what has been omitted, to underline what has been poured out. Nor do I mean to be a paraphrase only an interpretation, but a struggle and a rivalry about the same senses.]).
14 Examples are P. Oxy. 42.3006 (= MS 25, see also below) and P. Mil. Vogl. 1241v (= MS 20), both from the 3rd century AD.
15 On books as vehicles of transmission of the [x] cf. in particular Pernigotti (2005) 422-3.
16 Meyer (1881) 410-7; cf. also Kock (1886) 109-13; Martinelli (2003) 23; Liapis (2007) 280-5.
17 Stob. 4.26.10.
18 For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that Stobaeus' text slightly differs from that of the other testimonies containing the sententia: at the beginning, the Anthologian has [x] in place of [x]; the latter is the lectio that Kassel and Austin print in Menander's fragment. The facilior [x] is also attested in the Slavic tradition (cf. Morani [1996] 51).
19 [x] in place of [x] creates a metrical difficulty, because if the iota was treated as long, correptio Attica would not be observed.
Typically, in Homeric meter, a syllable is scanned long or "closed" when a vowel is followed by two or more consonants. However, in Attic Greek, a short vowel followed by a plosive and a liquid consonant or nasal stop remains a short or "open" syllable. This is called Attic correption, sometime known by its Latin name correptio Attica.

-- Correption, by Wikipedia

It is only since Pernigotti's edition (2008) that this sententia has been acknowledged as having an independent existence from the maxim transmitted by Stobaeus. As will be pointed out later, we owe to this scholar most of today's much more philologically valid and genre-consistent criteria for the constitutio textus of the [x]. Even some manuscripts containing the Slavic version of the maxim have the simplified infinitive form of the verb (cf. Morani [1996] 50-51).
20 To form a thorough picture of the contained excerpta, structure, sources, and aims of Stobaeus' Anthologion as well as of his treatment of Menander's lines see Hense (l916): Gorler (1963)  103-18, 147-9: Criscuolo (1968) 256-7: Piccione (1994); Mansfeld/Runia (1997) 204-9, 213; Piccione  (1999); Piccione/Runia (2001); Piccione (2003) 241-53; Piccione (2004) 407-9; Hose (2005); Piccione (2010) 619-34; Searby (2011); Hurst (2014) 184-5 (= Hurst [2015] 47-48). It might be relevant to add that in most cases, Stobaeus did not draw his quotations from the original sources, but from pre-existent agglomerates of gnomological materials. The mutual relation between the sources of the Menandri Sententiae and Stobaeus' represents a complicated question and we usually cannot ascertain a reliable picture of filiations and relative chronologies (cf. Pernigotti  [2003b] 197-202. Moreover, it should be taken into account that the anthologist does not hesitate to rearrange the materials he includes in his collection, either adjusting the grammar of a decontextualized extract, or adapting a text (by re-elaboration of its content as well as by expunction  of one or more passages) to the thematic section in which he quotes it. It is therefore necessary, for the purpose of a reliable analysis, to be well aware of the difficulties entailed by the comparison between the frequently altered tradition of the Menandri Sententiae and the not always impeccable quotations of the other gnomological sources like Stobaeus' Anthologion.
21 The varia lectio [x] (without movable v) might result from a mechanical error occurred in the copying process. Regardless of its genesis, this variant spoils the iambic trimeter.
22 Pernigotti repeatedly and very persuasively gives explanations and reasons for his new approach;  see in particular Pernigotti (2008) 17-18. 24-25: Pernigotti (2010) 231-3.
23 On these lines, I follow in the wake of Liapis' paper, significantly entitled How to make a monostichos, Strategies of Variation in the Sententiae Menandri (2007). In it, Liapis takes into consideration a selection of maxims derived from various authors and examines the changes they underwent to be included in the Menandri Sententiae's collections. Also, Gorler's study remains important for its programmatic intent to distinguish different degrees of similarity between the [x] and the lines given by other testimonies (see especially Gorler  [1963] 122-8, 134-9). For methodologic procedures and examples of the comparison between texts transmitted by different traditions, cf. also Meyer (1881) 410-6: Kock (1886) 103-8; Grilli, (1969) 189-91; Martinelli (2003) 23-24; Martinelli (2007) 679-87; Pernigotti (2003b). As already stated, with the particular aim of investigating the issues of authorship and authority, my field  of research will be limited to the sententiae presumably derived from truly Menandrean lines.
24 The list of the Menandri Sententiae I compared to Menandrean lines is in Pernigotti (2008)  574-5. In addition, sent. 222-Epit. 252; sent. 334 - fr. 794.1; sent. 877 - fr. 867 are also of interest  (for the latter, see below).
25 The examples I will mention have not been discussed by the scholars listed above.
26 Two easy examples of the divergence between these traditions are fr. 790-sent. 600 and fr.  859- sent. 30. In the first case, the fragment printed in Kassel and Austin's edition is [x]  and reflects the text given by Stobaeus (4.20a.20) as well as by P. Schub. 29, a papyrus from the 2nd century AD which is not a direct testimony of the alphabetically  ordered Menandri Sententiae, but contains a florilegium of maxims from different authors,  providing an example of the variety of gnomic anthologies in circulation at its time. All the manuscripts  of the [x], including those with the redactions, present the varia lectio [x]: as for the Arabic (I 245) and Slavic (299) versions, the closeness in meaning of the two  adjectives makes it difficult to infer which of them was in the Greek texts they were translated  from (cf. Morani [1996] 89). The variant [x] could be an attempt to simplify the metre, since  it removes the resolution; correptio Attica, however, is not observed (cf. Martinelli [2003] 24). The  second example of fragment and sententiae shows the same separation between the tradition of  Mediaeval manuscripts of the Sententiae and that of papyri and Stobaeus. While the codices of  the [x] transmit the metrically flawed text [x]  is the correct lectio accepted at the beginning of Menander's fragment, relying on Stobaeus's tradition and, even more convincingly, on the text given by P. Oxy. 42.3006 (= MS 25,  col. II I. 13); this papyrus, dated to the 3rd century AD, displays a series of maxims starting with  a- and represents the most relevant and direct evidence we have of a proper book of Menandri  Sententiae. On the other hand, for an opposite case, where Stobaeus gives a varia lectio of the  presumably Menandrean text, see above Stob. 4.26.10 with the variant [x].
27 In ancient Greek, the forms [x] definitely prevailed from the 1st century AD onwards.  As for the previous centuries, [x] became more common in Attic and Koine  Greek than the more ancient forms with [x] from the 4th century BC, as Attic inscriptions, Ptolemaic  papyri, and codices of authors such as Xenophon, Isocrates, Demosthenes, Plato, and Aristoteles  attest. Although a complete consistency should not be postulated, scholars believe that Menander  and the other comic poets of his period normally wrote [x] (cf. Arnott [2002] 200  and the studies he refers to). Concerning the oscillation between the forms with [x] and those with  [x] in the Menandri Sententiae tradition, one may compare, e.g. the lectio [x] (Stob. 4.44.57  (codd. A Mac]) printed in Men. Epit. fr. 6 Blanchard (= 9 Sandbach, 9 Arnott) to the variant [x]  (cod. D. codd. Plan., Plut. De tranq. an. 475c; De exil. 599c. Luc. Jup. Trag. 53, Jo. Chrys. In Matt.  homil. 80.771, Orion. Anth. 7.9, Stob. (cod. M], Macar. 6.62 (= Diogen. 7.38]) printed in the text of  sent. 594; cf. also Men. Kol. 42 Blanchard (= 43 Sandbach, B42 Arnott, 43 Pernerstorfer; P. Oxy.  3.409 + 33.2655 [2nd cent. AD], Stob. [cod. A]; [x]) - sent. *965 (O. Petr. Mus. 44 [= MS  27.44] r, 4 [end 5th cent. AD], Stob. [cett. codd.]: [x]; Men. fr. 752 (Stob. 3.33.2 (codd. S M]:  [x]) - sent. 597 (codd. B C1 D H [of the a family] U. codd. Plan., Stob. [cod. Mac]: [x]).
28 = Stob. 4.22g.142.
29 The same replacement, in a sententia, of the neuter adjective with the form agreeing with the  noun happened in sent. 42 (with [x]), originated from Men. fr. 701 (with [x]).
30 = Stob. 3.9.8.
31 The maxim is not attested in Greek, but can be inferred from the Arabic (I 174) and Slavic  (164) translations (cf. Ullmann [1961] 38 ad sent. 174; Morani [1996] 59); in the Slavic version, [x]  is not mentioned (sanctus enim est qui loquitur cum deo).
32 De monarch. 5 (p. 99 Marcovich).
33 On the other hand, an example of abbreviation of a Menandrean passage in order to create a monostich is identified by Liapis (2007) 269-70 in sent. 877 [x], which resulted  from a substantial abridgment of the four lines of fr. 867.
34 Cf. also sent. 483 [x], in which the copyists of two codices  of the Menandri Sententiae belonging to the b family (K V) changed the first person indicative  [x] for the imperative [x]. The original Menandrean fr. 704 has the slightly different, metrically  correct text given by Stobaeus (3.2.5): [x]. In the corrupted gnomic tradition, the two-syllable conjunction [x] was replaced by [x] (family a) or sv  (family b), neither of which suits the metre.
35 = Orion Anth. 7.7.
36 In codd. A K and in the Arabic translation (I 203).
37 Two similar cases of Menandrean lines which were generalized and de-contextualized when  made [x] are the well-known sent. 698 [x] (it is mentioned  in a significant number of papyri: MS 5, 17; 18, 16; 28.46v, 1-2; 34, 8), derived from Kith. fr. 11  Blanchard (= 10 Arnott) [x], and sent. 53 [x], derived from Men. Epikleros fr. 129.1 [x]. The  variations have been already discussed by Liapis (2007) 266-7, 271-2. On the first couple of lines  he observes that 'the vocative [x] being [ ... ] too tied up to the context of the play, has been  replaced with [x], also causing a slight change in the meaning (cf. also Pernigotti in CPF  2015 129-30). Concerning the second couple of lines, he underlines how the original Menandrean sentence 'may appear meaningless if taken in isolation, which is presumably what led to the  substitution of [x] (Liapis also suggests some possible reasons for the  uncommon definition of sleeplessness as 'the best of all things').
38 The fragment was quite popular in Antiquity: besides being included in the collections of  [x], it is also quoted as a famous maxim by ps.-Plut. Cons. ad Apoll. 119e, Clem.  Al. Strom., Stob. 4.52b.27, schol. Hom. Od. 15.246 and Eust. ad loc. (1781.1).
39 Cf. Arnott (1979) 169-71: 'Far from being a sentimental sigh about the Schuberts of this world,  it was part of a caustic comment by the slave Syros (Chrysalus) to Nicobulus [ ... ] about the old  man's stupidity on the occasion of the first swindle'. Menander's line is also read by Handley  (1968) 6: Gomme/Sandbach (1971) 125: Ferrari (2001) 950-1; Blanchard (2016) 54 n. 1 in light of  the ironic meaning it has in Plautus' Bacchides. However, it must be admitted that this interpretation  cannot be stated with certainty since we lack the context of the Menandrean play (for a  discordant opinion about a univocal interpretation for the Greek and Latin lines cf. Gorler [1963]  11-12 and Liapis [2002] 415, who point out that the supposed dependence of the meaning of Plautus' line  on that of Menander's has no solid basis).
40 Cf. Hom. Od. 15.245-7 (to which the scholion containing Menander's line refers) and Hdt.  1.31-32. See also Martina (2016) 381.
41 It may be interesting to note that the original line might be attested in a 5th century AD ostrakon  as well. In fact, according to the reading of the recent editors, the plural [x] would suit  the ink traces of O. Petr. Mus. 41 (= MS 28.41) v l. 11, as what follows [x] seems compatible with  the omicron of oi, and not with the yap of the Sententiae manuscript tradition (cf. Funghi in  Funghi et al. (2012) 59; Funghi/Martinelli in CPF 2015 219).
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From damage to discovery via virtual unwrapping: Reading the scroll from En-Gedi
by William Brent Seales, Clifford Seth Parker, Michael Segal, Emanuel Tov, Pnina Shor, and Yosef Porath
Science Advances
Vol 2, Issue 9
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601247
21 Sep 2016


Computer imaging techniques are commonly used to preserve and share readable manuscripts, but capturing writing locked away in ancient, deteriorated documents poses an entirely different challenge. This software pipeline—referred to as “virtual unwrapping”—allows textual artifacts to be read completely and noninvasively. The systematic digital analysis of the extremely fragile En-Gedi scroll (the oldest Pentateuchal scroll in Hebrew outside of the Dead Sea Scrolls) reveals the writing hidden on its untouchable, disintegrating sheets. Our approach for recovering substantial ink-based text from a damaged object results in readable columns at such high quality that serious critical textual analysis can occur. Hence, this work creates a new pathway for subsequent textual discoveries buried within the confines of damaged materials.


In 1970, archeologists made a dramatic discovery at En-Gedi, the site of a large, ancient Jewish community dating from the late eighth century BCE until its destruction by fire circa 600 CE. Excavations uncovered the synagogue’s Holy Ark, inside of which were multiple charred lumps of what appeared to be animal skin (parchment) scroll fragments (1, 2). The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) faithfully preserved the scroll fragments, although in the 40 years following the discovery, no one produced a means to overcome the irreversible damage they had suffered in situ. Each fragment’s main structure, completely burned and crushed, had turned into chunks of charcoal that continued to disintegrate every time they were touched. Without a viable restoration and conservation protocol, physical intervention was unthinkable. Like many badly damaged materials in archives around the world, the En-Gedi scroll was shelved, leaving its potentially valuable contents hidden and effectively locked away by its own damaged condition (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 The charred scroll from En-Gedi. Image courtesy of the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, IAA. Photo: S. Halevi.

The implementation and application of our computational framework allows the identification and scholarly textual analysis of the ink-based writing within such unopened, profoundly damaged objects. Our systematic approach essentially unlocks the En-Gedi scroll and, for the first time, enables a total visual exploration of its interior layers, leading directly to the discovery of its text. By virtually unwrapping the scroll, we have revealed it to be the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark. Furthermore, this work establishes a restoration pathway for damaged textual material by showing that text extraction is possible while avoiding the need for injurious physical handling. The restored En-Gedi scroll represents a significant leap forward in the field of manuscript recovery, conservation, and analysis.

Virtual unwrapping

Our generalized computational framework for virtual unwrapping applies to a wide range of damaged, text-based materials. Virtual unwrapping is the composite result of segmentation, flattening, and texturing: a sequence of transformations beginning with the voxels of a three-dimensional (3D) unstructured volumetric scan of a damaged manuscript and ending with a set of 2D images that reveal the writing embedded in the scan (3–6). The required transformations are initially unknown and must be solved by choosing a model and applying a series of constraints about the known and observable structure of the object. Figure 2 shows the final result for the scroll from En-Gedi. This resultant image, which we term the “master view,” is a visualization of the entire surface extracted from within the En-Gedi scroll.

Fig. 2 Completed virtual unwrapping for the En-Gedi scroll.

The first stage, segmentation, is the identification of a geometric model of structures of interest within the scan volume. This process digitally recreates the “pages” that hold potential writing. We use a triangulated surface mesh for this model, which can readily support many operations that are algorithmically convenient: ray intersection, shape dynamics, texturing, and rendering. A surface mesh can vary in resolution as needed and forms a piecewise approximation of arbitrary surfaces on which there may be writing. The volumetric scan defines a world coordinate frame for the mesh model; thus, segmentation is the process of aligning a mesh with structures of interest within the volume.
The second stage, texturing, is the formation of intensity values on the geometric model based on its position within the scan volume. This is where we see letters and words for the first time on the recreated page. The triangulated surface mesh offers a direct approach to the texturing problem that is similar to solid texturing (7, 8): Each point on the surface of the mesh is given an intensity value based on its location in the 3D volume. Many approaches exist for assigning intensities from the volume to the triangles of the segmented mesh, some of which help to overcome noise in the volumetric imaging and incorrect localization in segmentation.

The third stage, flattening, is necessary because the geometric model may be difficult to visualize as an image. Specifically, if text is being extracted, it will be challenging to read on a 3D surface shaped like the cylindrical wraps of scrolled material. This stage solves for a transformation that maps the geometric model (and associated intensities from the texturing step) to a plane, which is then directly viewable as a 2D image for the purpose of visualization.

In practice, this framework is best applied in a piecewise fashion to accurately localize a scroll’s highly irregular geometry. Also, the methodology required to map each of these steps from the original volume to flattened images involves a series of algorithmic decisions and approximations. Because textual identification is the primary goal of our virtual unwrapping framework, we tolerate mathematical and geometric error along the way to ensure that we extract the best possible images of text. Hence, the final merging and visualization step is significant not only for composing small sections into a single master view but also for checking the correctness and relative alignments of individual regions. Therefore, it is crucial to preserve the complete transformation pipeline that maps voxels in the scan volume to final pixels in the unwrapped master view so that any claim of extracted text can be independently verified.

The volumetric scan

The unwrapping process begins by acquiring a noninvasive digitization that gives some representation of the internal structure and contents of an object in situ (9–11). There are a number of choices for noninvasive, penetrative, and volumetric scanning, and our framework places no limits on the modality of the scan. As enhancements in volumetric scanning methodology [for example, phase-contrast microtomography (6, 12)] occur, we can take advantage of the ensuing potential for improved images. Whatever the scanning method, it must be appropriate to the scale and to the material and physical properties of the object.

Because of the particularities of the En-Gedi scroll, we used x-ray–based micro–computed tomography (micro-CT). The En-Gedi scroll’s damage creates a scanning challenge: How does one determine the correct scan protocol before knowing how ink will appear or even if the sample contains ink at all? It is the scan and subsequent pipeline that reveal the writing. After several calibration scans, a protocol was selected that produced a visible range of intensity variation on the rolled material. The spatial resolution was adjusted with respect to the sample size to capture enough detail through the thickness of each material layer to reveal ink if present and detectable. The chemical composition of the ink within the En-Gedi scroll remains unknown because there are no exposed areas suitable for analysis. However, the ink response within the micro-CT scan is denser than other materials, implying that it likely contains metal, such as iron or lead.

Any analysis necessitates physical handling of the friable material, and so, even noninvasive methods must be approached with great care. Although low-power x-rays themselves pose no significant danger to inanimate materials, the required transport and handling of the scroll make physical conservation and preservation an ever-present concern. However, once acquired, the volumetric scan data become the basis for all further computations, and the physical object can be returned to the safety of its protective archive.


Segmentation, which is the construction of a geometric model localizing the shape and position of the substrate surface within the scan on which text is presumed to appear, is challenging for several reasons. First, the surface as presented in the scanned volume is not developable, that is, isometric to a plane (13–15). Although an isometry could be useful as a constraint in some cases, the skin forming the layers of the En-Gedi scroll has not simply been folded or rolled. Damage to the scroll has deformed the shape of the skin material, which is apparent in the 3D scanned volume, making such a constraint unworkable. Second, the density response of animal skin in the volume is noisy and difficult to localize with methods such as marching cubes (16). Third, layers of the skin that are close together create ambiguities that are difficult to resolve from purely local, shape-based operators. Figure 3 shows four distinct instances where segmentation proves challenging because of the damage and unpredictable variation in the appearance of the surface material in the scan volume.

Fig. 3 Segmentation challenges in the En-Gedi scroll, based on examples in the slice view.
Double/split layering and challenging cell structure (left), ambiguous layers with unknown material (middle left), high-density “bubbling” on the secondary layer (middle right), and gap in the primary layer (right).

Our segmentation algorithm applied to the En-Gedi scroll builds a triangulated surface mesh that localizes a coherent section of the animal skin within a defined subvolume through a novel region-growing technique (Fig. 4). The basis for the algorithm is a local estimate of the differential geometry of the animal skin surface using a second-order symmetric tensor and associated feature saliency measures (17). An initial set of seed points propagates through the volume as a connected chain, directed by the local symmetric tensor and constrained by a set of spring forces. The movement of this particle chain through the volume traces out a surface over time. Figure 5 shows how crucially dependent the final result is on an accurate localization of the skin. When the segmented geometry drifts from the skin surface (Fig. 5A), the surface features disappear. When the skin is accurately localized (Fig. 5B), the surface detail, including cracks and ink evidence, becomes visible.

Fig. 4 A portion of the segmented surface and how it intersects the volume.

Fig. 5 The importance of accurate surface localization on the final generated texture. (A) Texture generated when the surface is only partially localized. (B) Texture generated when surface is accurately localized.

The user can tune the various parameters of this algorithm locally or globally based on the data set and at any time during the segmentation process. This allows for the continued propagation of the chain without the loss of previously segmented surface information. The segmentation algorithm terminates either at the user’s request or when a specified number of slices have been traversed by all of the particles in the chain.

The global structure of the entire surface is a piecewise composition of many smaller surface sections. Although it is certainly possible to generate a global structure through a single segmentation step, approaching the problem in a piecewise manner allows more accurate localization of individual sections, some of which are very challenging to extract. Although the segmented surface is not constrained to a planar isometry at the segmentation step, the model implicitly favors an approximation of an isometry. Furthermore, the model imposes a point-ordering constraint that prevents sharp discontinuities and self-intersections. The segmented surface, which has been regularized, smoothed, and resampled, becomes the basis for the texturing phase to visualize the surface with the intensities it inherits from its position in the volume.


Once the layers of the scroll have been identified and modeled, the next step is to render readable textures on those layers. Texturing is the assignment of an intensity, “or brightness,” value derived from the volume to each point on a segmented surface. The interpretation of intensity values in the original volumetric scan is maintained through the texturing phase. In the case of micro-CT, intensities are related to density: Brighter values are regions of denser material, and darker values are less dense (18). A coating of ink made from iron gall, for example, would appear bright, indicating a higher density in micro-CT. Our texturing method is similar to the computer graphics approach of “solid texturing,” a procedure that evaluates a function defined over R3 for each point to be textured on the embedded surface (7, 8). In our case, the function over R3 is simply a lookup to reference the value (possibly interpolated) at that precise location in the volume scan.

In an ideal case, where both the scanned volume and localized surface mesh are perfect, a direct mapping of each surface point to its 3D volume position would generate the best possible texture. In practice, however, errors in surface segmentation combined with artifacts in the scan create the need for a filtering approach that can overcome these sources of noise. Therefore, we implement a neighborhood-based directional filtering method, which gives parametric control over the texturing. The texture intensity is calculated from a filter applied to the set of voxels within each surface point’s local neighborhood. The parameters (Fig. 6) include use of the point’s surface normal direction (directional or omnidirectional), the shape and extent of the local texturing neighborhood, and the type of filter applied to the neighborhood. The directional parameter is particularly important when attempting to recover text from dual-sided materials, such as books. In such cases, a single segmented surface can be used to generate both the recto and verso sides of the page. Figure 7 shows how this texturing method improves ink response in the resulting texture when the segmentation does not perfectly intersect the ink position on the substrate in the volumetric scan.

Fig. 6 The geometric parameters for directional texturing.

Fig. 7 The effect of directional texturing to improve ink response. (Left) Intersection of the mesh with the volume. (Right) Directional texturing with a neighborhood radius of 7 voxels.


Region-growing in an unstructured volume generates surfaces that are nonplanar. In a scan of rolled-up material, most surface fragments contain high-curvature areas. These surfaces must be flattened to easily view the textures that have been applied to them. The process of flattening is the computation of a 3D to 2D parameterization for a given mesh (6, 19, 20). One straightforward assumption is that a localized surface cannot self-intersect and represents a coherent piece of substrate that was at one time approximately isometric to a plane. If the writing occurred on a planar surface before it was rolled up, and if the rolling itself induced no elastic deformations in the surface, then damage is the only thing that may have interrupted the isometric nature of the rolling.

We approach parameterization through a physics-based material model (4, 21, 22). In this model, the mesh is represented as a mass-spring system, where each vertex of the mesh is given a mass and the connections between vertices are treated as springs with associated stiffness coefficients. The mesh is relaxed to a plane through a balanced selection of appropriate forces and parameters. This process mimics the material properties of isometric deformation, which is analogous to the physical act of unwrapping.

A major advantage of a simulation-based approach is the wide range of configurations that are possible under the framework. Parameters and forces can be applied per vertex or per spring. This precise control allows for modeling of not only the geometric properties of a surface but also the physical properties of that surface. For example, materials with higher physical elasticity can be represented as such within the same simulation.

Although this work relies on computing parameterizations solely through this simulation-based method, a hybrid approach that begins with existing parameterization methods [for example, least-squares conformal mapping (LSCM) (23) and angle-based flattening (ABF) (24)] followed by a physics-based model is also workable. The purely geometric approaches of LSCM and ABF produce excellent parameterizations but have no natural way to capture additional constraints arising from the mesh as a physical object. By tracking the physical state of the mesh during parameterization via LSCM or ABF, a secondary correction step using the simulation method could then be applied to account for the mesh’s physical properties.

Merging and visualization

The piecewise nature of the pipeline requires a final merge step. There can be many individually segmented mesh sections that must be reconciled into a composite master view. The shape, location in the volume, and textured appearance of the sections aid in the merge. We take two approaches to the merging step: texture and mesh merging.

Texture merging is the alignment of texture images from small segmentations to generate a composite master view. This process provides valuable user feedback when performed simultaneously with the segmentation process. Texture merging builds a master view that gives quick feedback on the overall progress and quality of segmentation. However, because each section of geometry is flattened independently, the merge produces distortions that are acceptable as an efficiently computed draft view, but must be improved to become a definitive result for the scholarly study of text.

Mesh merging refers to a more precise recalculation of the merge step by using the piecewise meshes to generate a final, high-quality master view. After all segmentation work is complete, individual mesh segmentations are merged in 3D to create a single surface that represents the complete geometry of the segmented scroll. The mesh from this new merged segmentation is then flattened and textured to produce a final master view image. Because mesh merging is computationally expensive compared to texture merging, it is not ideal for the progressive feedback required during segmentation of a scan volume. However, as the performance of algorithms improves and larger segmented surfaces become practical, it is likely that mesh merging will become viable as a user cue during the segmentation process.

Maintaining a provenance chain is an important component of our pipeline. The full set of transformations used to generate a final master view image can be referenced so that every pixel in a final virtually unwrapped master view can be mapped back to the voxel or set of voxels within the volume that contributed to its intensity value. This is important for both the quantitative analysis of the resulting image and the verification of any extracted text. Figure 8 demonstrates the ability to select a region and point of interest in the texture image and invert the transformation chain to recover original 3D positions within the volume.

Fig. 8 Demonstration of stored provenance chain. The generated geometric transformations can map a region and point of interest in the master view (left) back to their 3D positions within the volume (right).


Using this pipeline, we have restored and revealed the text on five complete wraps of the animal skin of the En-Gedi scroll, an object that likely will never be physically opened for inspection (Fig. 1). The resulting master image (Fig. 2) enables a complete textual critique, and although such analysis is beyond the scope of this paper, the consensus of our interdisciplinary team is that the virtually unwrapped result equals the best photographic images available in the 21st century. From the master view, one can clearly see the remains of two distinct columns of Hebrew writing that contain legible and countable lines, letters, and words (Fig. 9).

Fig. 9 Partial transcription and translation of recovered text. (Column 1) Lines 5 to 7 from the En-Gedi scroll.

These images reveal the En-Gedi scroll to be the book of Leviticus, which makes it the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book ever found in a Holy Ark and a significant discovery in biblical archeology (Fig. 10). Without our computational pipeline and the textual analysis it enables, the En-Gedi text would be totally lost for scholarship, and its value would be left unknown.

Fig. 10 Timeline placing the En-Gedi scroll within the context of other biblical discoveries.

What is clearly preserved in the master image is part of one sheet of a scripture scroll that contains 35 lines, of which 18 have been preserved and another 17 have been reconstructed. The lines contain 33 to 34 letters and spaces between letters; spaces between the words are indicated but are sometimes minimal. The two columns extracted from the scroll also exhibit an intercolumnar blank space, as well as a large blank space before the first column that is larger than the column of text. This large blank space leaves no doubt that what is preserved is the beginning of a scroll, in this case a Pentateuchal text: the book of Leviticus.

Armed with the extraction of this readable text and its historical context discerned from carbon dating and other related archeological evidence (1, 2), scholars can accurately place the En-Gedi writings in the canonical timeline of biblical text. Radiocarbon results date the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (table S1). Alternatively, a first or second century CE date was suggested on the basis of paleographical considerations by Yardeni (25). Dating the En-Gedi scroll to the third or fourth century CE falls near the end of the period of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls (third century BCE to second century CE) and several centuries before the medieval biblical fragments found in the Cairo Genizah, which date from the ninth century CE onward (Fig. 10). Hence, the En-Gedi scroll provides an important extension to the evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls and offers a glimpse into the earliest stages of almost 800 years of near silence in the history of the biblical text.

As may be expected from our knowledge of the development of the Hebrew text, the En-Gedi Hebrew text is not vocalized, there are no indications of verses, and the script resembles other documents from the late Dead Sea Scrolls. The text deciphered thus far is completely identical with the consonantal framework of the medieval text of the Hebrew Bible, traditionally named the Masoretic Text, and which is the text presented in most printed editions of the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, one to two centuries earlier, the so-called proto-Masoretic text, as reflected in the Judean Desert texts from the first centuries of the Common era, still witnesses some textual fluidity. In addition, the En-Gedi scan revealed columns similar in length to those evidenced among the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Besides illuminating the history of the biblical text, our work on the scroll advances the development of textual imaging. Although previous research has successfully identified text within ancient artifacts, the En-Gedi manuscript represents the first severely damaged, ink-based scroll to be unrolled and identified noninvasively. The recent work of Barfod et al. (26) produced text from within a damaged amulet; however, the text was etched into the amulet’s thin metal surface, which served as a morphological base for the contrast of text. Although challenging, morphological structures provide an additional guide for segmentation that is unlikely to be present with ink-based writing. In the case of the En-Gedi scroll, for instance, the ink sits on the substrate and does not create an additional morphology that can aid the segmentation and rendering process. The amulet work also performed segmentation by constraining the surface to be ruled, and thus developable, to simplify the flattening problem. In addition, segmented strips were assembled showing letterforms, but a complete and merged surface segmentation was not computed, a result of using commercial software rather than implementing a custom software framework.

Samko et al. (27) describe a fully automated approach to segmentation and text extraction of undamaged, scrolled materials. Their results, from known legible manuscripts that can be physically unrolled for visual verification, serve as important test cases to validate their automated segmentation approach. However, the profound damage exhibited in the materials, such as the scroll from En-Gedi, creates its own new challenges—segmentation, texturing, and flattening algorithms—that only our novel framework directly addresses.

The work of Mocella et al. (12) claims that phase-contrast tomography generates contrast at ink boundaries in scans of material from Herculaneum. The hope for phase contrast comes from a progression of volumetric imaging methods (5, 6) and serves as a possible solution to the first step in our pipeline: creating a noninvasive, volumetric scan with some method that shows contrast at ink. Although verifying that ink sits on a page is not enough to allow scholarly study of discovered text, this is an important prelude to subsequent virtual unwrapping. Our complete approach makes such discovery possible.

An overarching concern as this framework becomes widely useful has to do not with technical improvements of the components, which will naturally occur as scientists and engineers innovate over the space of scanning, segmentation, and unwrapping, but rather with the certified provenance of every final texture claim that is produced from a scan volume. An analysis framework must offer the ability for independent researchers to confidently affirm results and verify scholarly claims. Letters, words, and, ultimately, whole texts that are extracted noninvasively from the inaccessible inner windings of an artifact must be subject to independent scrutiny if they are to serve as the basis for the highest level of scholarship. For such scrutiny to occur, accurate and recorded geometry, aligned in the coordinate frame of the original volumetric scan, must be retained for confirmation.

The computational framework we have described provides this ability for a third party to confirm that letterforms in a final output texture are the result of a pipeline of transformations on the original data and not solely an interpretation from an expert who may believe letterforms are visible. Such innate third-party confirmation capability reduces confusion around the resulting textual analyses and engenders confidence in the effectiveness of virtual unwrapping techniques.

The traditional approach of removing a folio from its binding—or unrolling a scroll—and pressing it flat to capture an accurate facsimile obviously will not work on fragile manuscripts that have been burned and crushed into lumps of disintegrating charcoal. The virtual unwrapping that we performed on the En-Gedi scroll proves the effectiveness of our software pipeline as a noninvasive alternative: a technological engine for text discovery in the face of profound damage. The implemented software components, which are necessary stages in the overall process, will continue to improve with every new object and discovery. However, the separable stages themselves, from volumetric scanning to the unwrapping and merging transformations, will become the guiding framework for practitioners seeking to open damaged textual materials. The geometric data passing through the individual stages are amenable to a standard interface through which the software components can interchangeably communicate. Hence, each component is a separable piece that can be individually upgraded as alternative and improved methods are developed. For example, the accurate segmentation of layers within a volume is a crucial part of the pipeline. Segmentation algorithms can be improved by tuning them to the material type (for example, animal skin, papyrus, and bark), the expected layer shape (for example, flat and rolled pages), and the nature of damage (for example, carbonized, burned, and fragmented). The flattening step is another place where improvements will better support user interaction, methods to quantify and visualize errors from flattening, and a comparative analysis between different mapping schemes.

The successful application of our virtual unwrapping pipeline to the En-Gedi scroll represents a confluence of physics, computer science, and the humanities. The technical underpinnings and implemented tools offer a collaborative opportunity between scientists, engineers, and textual scholars, who must remain crucially involved in the process of refining the quality of extracted text. Although more automation in the pipeline is possible, we have now achieved our overarching goal, which is the creation of a new restoration pathway—a way to overcome damage—to reach and retrieve text from the brink of oblivion.


Master view results

The master view image of the En-Gedi scroll was generated using the specific algorithms and processes outlined below. Because we use the volumetric scan as the coordinate frame for all transformations in our pipeline, the resolution of the master view approximately matches that of the scan. The spatial resolution of the volume (18 μm/voxel, isometric) produces an image resolution of approximately 1410 pixels per inch (25,400 μm/inch), which can be considered archival quality. From this, we estimate the surface area of the unwrapped portion to be approximately 94 cm2 (14.57 in2). The average size of letterforms varies between 1.5 and 2 mm, and the pixels of the master view maintain the original dynamic range of 16 bits.

Volumetric scan

Two volumetric scans were performed using a Bruker SkyScan 1176 in vivo Micro-CT machine. It uses a PANalytical microfocus tube and a Princeton Instruments camera. With a maximum spatial resolution of 9 μm per voxel, it more than exceeded the resolution requirements for the En-Gedi scroll. A spatial resolution of 18 μm was used for all En-Gedi scans. Additionally, because this is an in vivo machine, the scroll could simply be placed within the scan chamber and did not need to be mounted for scanning. This limited the risk of physical damage to the object.

An initial, single field-of-view scan was done on the scroll to verify the scan parameters and to confirm that the resolution requirements had been met. This scan was performed at 50 kV, 500 μA, and 350-ms exposure time, with added filtration (0.2 Al) to improve image quality by absorbing lower-energy x-rays that tend to produce scattering. The reconstructions showed very clear separation of layers within the scroll, which indicated a good opportunity for segmentation. The scan protocol was then modified to increase contrast, where the team suspected that there may be visible ink. To acquire data from as much of the scroll as possible, the second and final scan was an offset scan using four connected scans. Final exposure parameters of 45 kV, 555 μA, and 230 ms were selected for this scan. The data were reconstructed using Bruker SkyScan’s NRecon engine, and the reconstructed slices were saved as 16-bit TIFF images for further analysis.


The basis for the algorithm is a local estimate of the differential geometry of the animal skin surface using a second-order symmetric tensor and associated feature saliency measures (17). The tensor-based saliency measures are available at each point in the volume. The 3D structure tensor for point p is calculated as

Jo(p)=gσ*∇u(p)∇u(p)T (1)

where ∇u(p) is the 3D gradient at point p, gσ is a 3D Gaussian kernel, and denotes convolution. The eigenvalues and eigenvectors of this tensor provide an estimate of the surface normal at p
n(p)=e1,ifλ1≫λ2≈λ3 (2)

The algorithm begins with an ordered chain of seed points localized to a single slice by a user. From the starting point, each particle in the chain undergoes a force calculation that propagates the chain forward through the volume. This region-growing algorithm estimates a new positional offset for each particle in the chain based on the contribution of three forces: gravity (a bias in the direction of the long axis of the scroll), neighbor separation, and the saliency measure of the structure tensor. First, n(p) is biased along the long axis of the scroll by finding the vector rejection of an axis-aligned unit vector Z onto n(p)

G=Z−Z⋅n(p)n(p)⋅n(p)n(p) (3)

To keep particles moving together, an additional restoring spring force S is computed using a spring stiffness coefficient k and the elongation factors Xl and Xr between the particle and both its left and right neighbors in the chain

S=−kXl+−kXr (4)

In the final formulation, a scaling factor α is applied to G, and the final positional offset for the particle is the normalized summation of all terms

ΔP=∥αG+S∥ (5)

The intuition behind this framework is the following: The structure tensor estimates a surface normal, which gives a hint at how a layer is moving locally through points (Eqs. 1 and 2). The layer should extend in a direction that is approximated locally by its tangent plane: the surface normal. The gravity vector nudges points along the major axis around which the surface is rolled, which is a big hint about the general direction to pursue to extend a surface. Moving outward, away from the major axis and across layers, generally defeats the goal of following the same layer. The spring forces help to maintain a constant spacing between points, restraining them from moving independently. These forces must all be balanced relative to one another, which is done by trial and error.

We applied the computed offset iteratively to each particle, resulting in a surface mesh sampled at a specific resolution relative to the time step of the particle system. The user can tune the various parameters of this algorithm based on the data set and at any time during the segmentation process. We also provided a feedback interface whereby a human user can reliably identify a failed segmentation and correct for mistakes in the segmentation process.

For each small segmentation, we used spring force constants of 0.5 and an α scaling factor of 0.3. Segmentation chain points had an initial separation of 1 voxel. This generally produced about six triangles per 100 μm in the segmented surface models. When particles crossed surface boundaries because the structure tensor did not provide a valid estimate of the local surface normal, the chain was manually corrected by the user.


Two shapes were tested for the shape of the texturing neighborhood: a spheroid and a line. The line shape includes only those voxels that directly intersect along the surface normal. When the surface normal is accurate and smoothly varying, the line neighborhood allows parametric control for the texture calculation to incorporate voxels that are near but not on (or within) the surface. The line neighborhood leads to faster processing times and less blurring on the surface, although the spheroid neighborhood supports more generalized experimentation—the line neighborhood is a degenerate spheroid. We settled on bidirectional neighborhoods (voxels in both the positive and negative direction) using a line neighborhood with a primary axis length of 7 voxels. We filtered the neighborhood using a Max filter because the average ink response (density) in the volume was much brighter than the ink response of the animal skin.


Our flattening implementation makes use of Bullet Physics Library’s soft body simulation, which uses position-based dynamics to solve the soft body system. Points along one of the long edges of the segmentation were pinned in place while a gravity force along the x axis was applied to the rest of the body. This roughly “unfurled” the wrapping and aligned the mesh with the xz plane. A gravity force along the y axis was then applied to the entire body, which pushed the mesh against a collision plane parallel to the xz plane. This action flattened the curvature of the mesh against the plane. A final expansion and relaxation step was applied to smooth out wrinkles in the internal mesh.


In total, around 140 small segmentations were generated during the segmentation process. These segmentations were then mesh-merged to produce seven larger segmentations, a little over one for each wrap of the scroll. Each large segmentation was then flattened and textured individually. The final set of seven texture images was then texture-merged to produce the final master view imagery for this paper. All merging steps for this work were performed by hand. Texture merges were performed in Adobe Photoshop, and mesh merging was performed in MeshLab. An enhancement curve was uniformly applied to the merged master view image to enhance visual contrast between the text and substrate.


We thank D. Merkel (Merkel Technologies Ltd.) who donated the volumetric scan to the IAA. Special thanks to the excavators of the En-Gedi site D. Barag and E. Netzer (Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem). Radiocarbon determination was made at the DANGOOR Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (D-REAMS) at the Weizmann Institute. We thank G. Bearman (imaging technology consultant, IAA.) for support and encouragement. W.B.S. acknowledges the invaluable professional contributions of C. Chapman in the editorial preparation of this manuscript. Funding: W.B.S. acknowledges funding from the NSF (awards IIS-0535003 and IIS-1422039). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. W.B.S. acknowledges funding from Google and support from S. Crossan (Founding Director of the Google Cultural Institute). Author contributions: W.B.S. conceived and designed the virtual unwrapping research program. C.S.P. directed the software implementation team and assembled the final master view. P.S. acquired the volumetric scan of the scroll and its radiocarbon dating and provided initial textual analysis. M.S. and E.T. edited the visible text and interpreted its significance in the context of biblical scholarship. Y.P. excavated the En-Gedi scroll on May 5, 1970. The manuscript was prepared and submitted by W.B.S. with contributions from all authors. Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests. Data and materials availability: All data needed to evaluate the conclusions in the paper are present in the paper and/or the Supplementary Materials. Additional data related to this paper may be requested from the authors. All scan data and results from this paper are archived at the Department of Computer Science, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY) and are available at

Supplementary Material


table S1. Radiocarbon dating results of the En-Gedi scroll (25).


File (1601247_sm.pdf)


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