thoughts on the recent announcement by italian scientists regarding the bromine and chlorine levels of the temple scroll

The Temple Scroll, columns 19-21, from Qumran Cave 11. The scroll dates between the late 1st century BCE to the early 1st century CE. It is written in Hebrew with ink on parchment.

The Temple Scroll, columns 19-21, from Qumran Cave 11. The scroll dates between the late 1st century BCE to the early 1st century CE. It is written in Hebrew with ink on parchment.

Owen Jarus at Heritage Key has a nice summary of new evidence regarding the origin of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls: the Temple Scroll (11QT). Led by Professor Giuseppe Pappalardo, a team of Italian scientists made up of researchers of the National Laboratories of the South (LNS) in Catania of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN, or Italy’s National Institute for Nuclear Physics):

claim to have identified the origin of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls (known as The Temple Scroll) by identifying the source of the water used to make the parchment…The team analyzed the ratio of chlorine to bromine in fragments of the Temple Scroll. They then compared this ratio to that of the water sources near Qumran.

In a press release from July 2, 2010, the INFN concluded:

The ratio of chlorine to bromine in the fragments of the Temple Scroll was then analysed using proton beams of 1.3 MeV, produced by the Tandem particle accelerator at the INFN National Laboratories of the South. According to this analysis, the ratio of chlorine to bromine in the scroll is consistent with the ratio in local water sources. In other words, this finding supports the hypothesis that the scroll was created in the area in which it was found.

At roughly 32% salinity, the water in the Dead Sea is nearly 9 times as saline as the oceanic average. Likewise, the Dead Sea has the highest concentration of bromide ions (Br) of all bodies of waters on Earth. Because of these distinctive properties, the chlorine and bromine levels of the Temple Scroll’s parchment can be used as a way of determining the origin of the parchment. Because the bromine levels matched those distinctively elevated levels of the Dead Sea, the researchers could confidently conclude that the parchment of the Temple Scroll was manufactured at or near the Dead Sea.

The Italian team says it will next use the same XPIXE and particle accelerator technique to test the Temple Scroll’s ink. This is an important test because it is possible that the parchment was cured at or near the Dead Sea, and then sold or transported elsewhere for use by scribes residing in some other region. Qumran has offered evidence of animal husbandry, and appears to have had distillation vats (Locus 121) that may have been used to cure animal hides for the production of parchment. While the existence of inkwells in Locus 30, evidence of animal husbandry (needed for animal skins), and the presence of distillation vats all support the suggestion that scrolls (or at least parchment) were produced at Qumran, it does not necessarily follow that the resulting parchment was inscribed at Qumran. Granted this is somewhat of a minimalist position, but one cannot argue for certain that the Temple Scroll’s parchment was cured at Qumran, only that it was cured using water from the Dead Sea. Likewise, the presence of parchment production facilities (if that’s what they were indeed used for) at Qumran does not necessarily mean that the parchment was inscribed at Qumran, just as the presence of paper at a paper mill does not mean that the paper was used only at the mill. Just as most universities do not produce their own paper, but import it from elsewhere, so too could the parchment used for what became the Temple Scroll have come from the Dead Sea region, but inscribed elsewhere.

The analysis of the ink is important because it could demonstrate that the ink used to write on the Temple Scroll may also have been produced with water from the Dead Sea. And while this still leaves open the possibility that both the inks and parchment were produced at Dead Sea industrial installations and exported to other areas (for instance, Jerusalem), the preponderance of evidence (animals at Qumran, inkwells at Qumran, scrolls in caves near Qumran) would seem to support the continued suggestion that at least some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were produced at Qumran.

While this research does not prove that the Temple Scroll was penned at Qumran, we can conclude that there were viable industrial installations and activities taking place near the Dead Sea. And while we do not yet know the full extent of the industrial activity in the Dead Sea region, the fact that many of these industrial activities such as date palm cultivation, animal husbandry, parchment curing, and ink production can all be shown to have been practiced on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in the late Second Temple period supports the suggestion that small groups of people could have lived and even prospered, leading self-sustaining lives in that region.

Did the Essenes (or some other Jewish sect or sects like them) write the Dead Sea Scrolls (or at least some of them) at Qumran? From a purely archaeological perspective, we still don’t know. But, all of the elements necessary for scroll production appear to be present there.

more on ‘writing the dead sea scrolls’

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

With Shrine of the Book curator Adolfo Roitman (left), Professor Cargill looks at the longest segment of the actual Isaiah Scroll, the oldest copy of any book of the Bible known today. Only a few select scholars are allowed access to the document.

the ucla press room has a short writeup by meg sullivan on my coming nat geo documentary probing the question of who wrote the dead sea scrolls. the documentary will appear on national geographic channel, tuesday, july 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM. you can read more about the show here or preview clips form the show here.

writing the dead sea scrolls to air july 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm on national geographic

Writing the Dead Sea Scrolls on Nat GeoWriting the Dead Sea Scrolls” will air on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM on the National Geographic Channel. The NatGeo website has complete details of the show, including a synopsis of the program, photos, quick facts, and video clips from the beginning and the end of the show.

I mentioned my trip to Israel and the West Bank earlier this year to make this program in a previous post.

National Geographic Israel previously featured the UCLA Qumran Visualization Project in 2008. The QVP resulted in the digital model of Qumran, a 3D virtual reconstruction of Qumran that was a central component of my doctoral research at UCLA. The UCLA Experiential Technologies Center website has a description of the Qumran project, complete with a video introducing the project, which can be viewed in the virtual reality visualization portal on UCLA’s campus.

update: jim barfield and the copper scroll project appear on travel channel

Jim Barfield and Michael Arbuthnot on the Travel Channel

Jim Barfield appears on the Travel Channel with Michael Arbuthnot

Jimmy D. Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project are back. After disappearing for nearly a year, Jimmy D. (and yes, he now refers to himself in the third-person now as ‘Jimmy D.’ – see the video) has made an appearance on a Travel Channel show hosted by marine archaeologist Michael Arbuthnot entitled: Secret Worlds with Michael Arbuthnot: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll. While little to no information appears on the Travel Channel’s Website about the show, Barfield’s ideological cohorts over at The JerUSAlem Connection are promoting Barfield’s appearance. (Be sure to read their related article on the same page entitled ‘Islam and the Left: two sides of the same coin.”)

The opening scene is an interview with Indy-branded tour guide Danny “the Digger” Herman, and it closes with an entire segment devoted to Jimmy Barfield and his theories about the Copper Scroll. In between, we learn how to smoke a hookah, go scuba diving in Caesarea Maritima, go mud bathing in the Dead Sea, and ride camels. The show did have a couple of scholars, namely Alison Schofield of the University of Denver and Shimon Gibson of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, both of whom provided background information about the Dead Sea Scrolls and archaeology.

An organization called Biblical Productions commented extensively on the making of the project:

Morningstar Entertainment, a production company from Los Angeles, sent another crew in July this year to investigate the mysterious Copper Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls for their highly anticipated new show “Secret Worlds”. After having previously shot in Israel and Jordan for the “Knights Templar” and “Dead Sea Scrolls” episodes, their archaeologist and host Michael Arbuthnot now concentrated on solving the riddle of this fascinating inscription.

Biblical Productions was the local production manager for the entire shoot and took the crew to fascinating desert locations and fabulous experts. Why was the scroll written on copper? Is it a real treasure map? Who can help us understand the mysterious inscriptions and who wrote it? These were just a few questions the crew set out to answer in this quest, in which Biblical Productions took them from the impressive Hyrcania Tunnel in a desert military zone, to the Qumran Caves where the scrolls were found; to Acre and finally to Jerusalem. Along the way they interviewed and discussed ideas with several experts such as Shimon Gibson, Danny Herman, Steven Pfann and Jim Barfield; the latter an inspirational fire fighter from Texas who has made it his mission to solve the riddle of the scroll. The crew furthermore filmed one of Dr. Stephen Pfann’s researchers who traced the methods of the inscribing process by inscribing a copper scroll all on her own – with astonishing results.

Copper Scroll Project of Facebook

Copper Scroll Project uses Facebook to try and get people to call or write the Travel Channel and ask them to do more with Jimmy Barfield.

One comment: As I have stated in the past (see this post for a summary of the scholarly critiques against Barfield’s nonsense) listing Jimmy D. Barfield as an ‘expert’ in this show makes a mockery of archaeology, of the show, its producers (Morningstar Entertainment), and of the Travel Channel. I am all for the production of documentaries that discuss archaeology and the Bible (full disclosure: I have appeared in a number of them), but a production company creating documentaries about the Bible and archaeology has an obligation not to pass on nonsensical theories as credible, nor the theories’ peddlers as ‘experts.’ In this regard, Morningstar and the Travel Channel have failed miserably. They gave air time to Barfield, which he will now turn around and use to raise funds and promote his religious agenda. (Barfield is already taking ‘pre-orders’ on a self-published e-book on his Copper Scroll Project website. Likewise, Copper Scroll Project folks are encouraging people to contact the Travel Channel and tell them how much they liked the show on Facebook.) They have done a disservice to the public by equating Barfield’s admittedly amateur musings with real scholarship. And they have done a disservice to scholarship, setting back yet again many concerned scholars’ desire to provide quality, verifiable information to the public.

If you want to see and hear the archaeological ‘expert’ yourself, watch his video.

I do have one final question about the brief reconstruction of Qumran shown during the episode. Specifically, where did the producers get it? It appears to be a mutilated modified version of some otherwise pretty good research, although I can’t quite place where I’ve seen those film clips before. I recognize those camera angles from somewhere… that color palette… the interpretation and building layout… that background… I can’t quite place it.

jimmy barfield appears on the travel channel

Jimmy D. Barfield

Jimmy D. Barfield lectures about the Copper Scroll.

Jimmy D. Barfield and the Copper Scroll Project are back making noise again. After lying low for a year, Jimmy D. (and yes, he now refers to himself in the third-person now as ‘Jimmy D.’ – see the video) is making an appearance on a Travel Channel show hosted by marine archaeologist Michael Arbuthnot entitled: Secret Worlds with Michael Arbuthnot: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll. And of course, their friends at The JerUSAlem Connection are promoting Barfield’s appearance. (Be sure to read their related article on the same page entitled ‘Islam and the Left: two sides of the same coin.”)

The Copper Scroll Project is also now selling a self-published e-book on their copper scroll project website.

I’ll watch the show and report back later. From the opening scene – an interview with Indy-clone and tour guide Danny “the Digger” Herman – I have a feeling I’ll either be laughing or shaking my head.

I do have one question about the brief reconstruction of Qumran shown during the episode. Specifically, where did they get it? It appears to be a modified version of some pretty good research.

a one man ventriloquist: glenn beck’s misrepresentation of the dead sea scrolls

Glenn Beckyou have got to be absolutely kidding me.

joel mentioned it. jim brought it to my attention. and now i must vomit.

just when you thought glenn beck couldn’t get any stupider, this one-man intellectual gulf oil spill has spewed forth yet another gusher of sheer misinformation madness. my first inclination was to blow off mr. beck with a response in the form of a quote from the adam sandler cult classic, billy madison:

Mr. Madison Beck, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

however, because glenn beck chose to tread on the treacherous triumvirate of biblical studies, archaeology, and religion that is the dead sea scrolls, i feel compelled, nay, obligated in my role as a member of an apparent scholarly squad of biblical ‘discovery’ debunkers to respond.

first, let me assure you that i have no political or anti-conservative bent. i am a political moderate, with an appreciation of pundits on both sides. there are smart liberals and there are smart conservatives; glenn beck is neither. mr. beck is not as cunning as bill o’reilly, not as witty as keith olbermann, not as smart as rush limbaugh, and not as hot (intellectually) as rachel maddow. glenn beck lacks the political acumen of george will, the savvy of paul begala, the objective demeanor of juan williams, the strategic humor of james carville, the ingenuity of thomas friedman, the inquisitive journalistic tenacity of steve inskeep, the experience of david gergen, the brains of jeff greenfield, and the influence of matt drudge. rather, our friend mr. beck, apparently suffering from diarrhea of the mouth, is little more than an annoying sideshow – an overly dramatic, undereducated, sub-populist, train wreck, that makes the otherwise media-wise rupert murdoch look like a fool for signing him.

so what has mr. beck said that has so roused my intellectual ire? beck recently touched a nerve – a nerve i’ve sworn to defend – by pontificating upon the dead sea scrolls. beck, who apparently feels that his single theology class at yale before dropping out qualifies him to expound on the scrolls, recently made comments so utterly and fantastically false, that i dropped what i was doing and began to write this response.

in his amateurish attempt to imitate and channel the dilettantish ways of jim barfield, simcha jacobovichi, ron wyatt, noah’s ark ministries international, and vendyl jones, beck invoked the dead sea scrolls in a nonsensical rant that began with comparing children to empty clay pots and ended with the recitation of portions of the declaration of independence.

A Fragment of the Dead Sea Scrollslisten as beck speaks concerning things about which he knows nothing (beginning at the 0:36 second mark) and read along:

Beck: You know the… Dead Sea Scrolls. You know what they are? Stu, do you know what the Dead Sea Scrolls are? …

Stu: Well, of course I do.

Beck: No, come on. Most people don’t. I’m not…

Stu: I heard of them. I don’t really know.

Beck: You don’t really know, do you. You have no why they were there.

Stu: Nu uh.

Beck: Sarah, average person doesn’t know. Any idea? Take a guess on what, why the Dead Sea Scrolls are there, anything else.

Sarah: Something religious.

Beck: OK good. Even though I’ve explained this on this program a couple of times, I’m glad to see that, I’m glad to see that even the people that work with me everyday don’t even listen.

Stu: Well, there’s, we were actually talking about American Idol last night. The guy won! It was unbelievable.

Beck: All right. So here’s what happened. When Constantine decided he was going to uh… cobble together an army, um, he did the uh… Council of uh… Nicaea, right, Pat?

Pat: Yea.

Beck: Council of Nicaea. Um… and what they did is brought all of the religious figures, uhh, together, all the Christians and then they said, “Ok, let’s uh, put together the Apostles’ Creed, let’s, you know, you guys do it.” So they brought all their religious scripture together, and that’s when the Bible was first bound and everything else. And then they said, “Anybody that disagrees with this is a heretic and… off with their head!” Well, that’s what the Dead Sea Scrolls are. The Dead Sea Scrolls are those scriptures that people had at the time that they said, “They are destroying all of this truth.” Whether it’s truth or not is, is up to the individual, but that… at that time those people thought that this was something that needed to be preserved and so they rolled up the scrolls and they put ’em in clay pots and they, they put ’em in the back of caves where no one could find them. They were hidden scripture because everything was being destroyed that disagreed with the Council of Nicaea and Constantine. That’s what those things are.

this is absolutely, fundamentally, unequivocally false! allow me to make two key points:

  • the dead sea scrolls were written between approximately 200 bce and 70 ce. the council of nicaea met in 325 ce. not even close.
  • there is nothing whatsoever christian about the dead sea scrolls. no portion of the new testament is represented in the scrolls.

i don’t know where to begin. arguing that the dead sea scrolls were hidden to hide them from the council of nicaea is like arguing that we won the war of independence over the british because of our advanced computer technology; the timing is off a couple of hundred years. perhaps glenn beck is confusing the dead sea scrolls with the nag hammadi library, a cache of early christian gnostic texts written in coptic dating to the third and fourth centuries ce and discovered in the upper egypt town of nag hammadi in 1945. but of course, facts are secondary in the mind of glenn beck. what really matters to the likes of beck is massaging and distorting these facts until they fit whatever preconceived argument he’s already formulated in his mind.

in this regard, the comments glenn beck made about the dead sea scrolls closely resemble the deteriorated state in which the dead sea scrolls were discovered: they came forth from the mouth of a dark, seemingly bottomless cave, covered in bat guano, and smelling like bullshit, which is exactly what glenn beck has offered up in his latest attempt to portray himself as a biblical historian. the difference, of course, between the dead sea scrolls and glenn beck is that the dead sea scrolls at least tried to keep their thoughts and ideas hidden away to themselves.

in attempting to discuss religion and the dead sea scrolls, glenn beck has achieved something astonishing. he is a one-man ventriloquist: his lips are moving, but he’s actually talking out of his ass.

dr. lawrence schiffman lectures tonight on the dead sea scrolls in milwaukee

Dr. Lawrence Schiffman

Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, the Ethel and Irvin A. Edelman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University

dr. lawrence schiffman will give a lecture entitled “israel at the time of the dead sea scrolls” tonight, march 4, 2010 at the milwaukee public museum. the lecture begins at 7:30 pm.

dr. schiffman is always a wonderful lecturer, so don’t miss it. it will be a great time!

don’t miss the entire lecture series on the dead sea scrolls and the bible, available here.

have a nice day.

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