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A new study published in the latest issue of the journal Cell, uses DNA extracted from the Dead Sea Scrolls to identify the type of animal skin used in the parchment. As part of the seven-year study, scholars first generated the genomic sequence from 35 ancient breeds of animal, as well as four modern types. They then used non-invasive ways of collecting DNA from the scrapings of the unwritten backside of the fragments, or in some cases, even from the dust on the tape attached to the scrolls. The study has revealed that most of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments were written on sheep skins, and not goat skins, as previously thought. Two scroll fragments of Jeremiah were found to be written on calfskin, which the authors of the study believe indicates they came from outside Judean Desert region of Qumran. Scholars hope to be able to continue to identify the different herds of animals used in making the parchments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as use the technology to match fragments from the same scroll, potentially leading to the reconstruction of more texts.


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