Researchers at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, resorted to artificial intelligence to conclude that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by several scribes, which opens a “new window” for the study of the ancient world.
Discovered about seventy years ago in the Qumran caves, the Dead Sea Scrolls they are famous for including the oldest texts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), as well as several Jewish documents until then unknown.
The project “The Hands that Wrote the Bible“(The hands that wrote the Bible), financed by European Research Council, and whose conclusions were published this Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, allowed decipher the way the scribes worked these manuscripts.
“It is very exciting, because it opens a new window to the ancient world, which can reveal much more intricate connections between the scribes who produced the manuscripts,” said Mladen Popović, professor of Ancient Judaism at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Groningen, quoted in a university statement on the publication of the research.
According to the researcher, the study detected evidence of a very similar writing style, shared by two scribes on the Isaiah Scroll, which “suggests a training or common origin ”for this function.
The study now released, which contradicts the thesis that the manuscripts would be the work of a single scribe, conclusion based on calligraphy, involved the use of artificial intelligence to analyze, through the biomechanical characteristics, the way of writing the documents.
The investigation focused on the Great Isaiah Scroll, which features a uniform handwriting.
“This parchment contains the letter ‘aleph’, or ‘a’, at least five thousand times. It is impossible to compare all of them just by eye. Computers are suitable for analyzing large data sets, such as the five thousand “a” in the manuscript. The digital image allows all types of computer calculations, at the micro character level, measuring the curvature of each one ”, explained Lambert Schomaker, professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering.
According to the researchers, this study of the Great Manuscript of Isaiah “opens up a whole new way of analyzing the Qumran texts based on physical characteristics”, since it allows a micro-level analysis of each of the scribes.
“We are now able to identify different scribes. We will never know their names. But after seventy years of study, it seems that we can finally greet them through their handwriting, ”said Mladen Popović.