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DNA to reveal source of Dead Sea Scrolls

Authorities are hoping that DNA testing of animal bones discovered in excavations at the Qumran plateau will reveal the origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Jerusalem Post says archeologists believe the findings will resolve the debate sparked nearly half a century ago with the discovery of the biblical manuscripts in 11 separate caves on the shores of the Dead Sea.

Professor Oren Gutfield of Hebrew University, who participated in the excavations, is attempting to ascertain the relationship between the scrolls and their place of discovery.

"What we will do now are DNA tests to these bones in order to compare DNA results from these animals with DNA of the Dead Sea Scrolls parchment. A connection was never found between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the site itself, but if a match is found it means that the people who lived in Qumran actually prepared the scrolls from animals at the site itself," Gutfield said.

The seven bone deposits of mules eaten and buried inside cleaning pots and storage jars by the Qumran community in the 1st century BCE will undergo DNA testing this week.

Archeologists will compare the findings of the bones with the DNA of the scrolls conducted over the past five years.

According to Gutfield, "If the bone deposits, which are unique to the plateau, match with the scrolls, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest debates of the archeological world today - do the scrolls originate from within the Qumran community or were they transported to the caves from outside before the siege of the Romans in 66 CE?"

DNA to reveal source of Dead Sea Scrolls (Religion News Blog/Jerusalem Post 17/8/04)

19 Aug 2004