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Thank God for Worms, Decomposition, and Computers:Reconstructing the Dead Sea Scrolls

18th August 2005

I am currently working through Ulrich Dahmen’s excellent monograph on the so-called Qumran Psalms scroll (11QPsa), Psalmen- und Psalter-Rezeption im Fruehjudentum: Rekonstrucktion, Textbestand, Sturktur und Pragmatik der Psalmen Rolle 11QPsa aus Qumran (Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 49; Leiden: Brill, 2003; Buy from or

Dahmen proposes a new reconstruction of the beginning of the Psalms scroll based on the techniques developed by H. Stegemann and others. What I find the most fascinating is the help that worm traces and decomposition patterns — as well as computers — play in the reconstruction. His reconstruction is similar to that of Peter Flint’s in The Dead Sea Psalms Scroll & the Book of Psalms (Leiden: Brill, 1997; Buy from or, though Dahmen omits Psalm 110 from column 4 since its inclusion would make the line and column lengths too large. That seems quite plausible to me.

Who would have thought that worms, decomposition, and computers would all work together to help us reconstruct and interpret ancient biblical scrolls? I find it all quite fascinating.

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