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14.12.2022   kl. 11:15 - 12:15

Kaare Lund Rasmussen, Dead Sea Scrolls, DIAS Wednesday lecture

DIAS Lecture by Kaare Lund Rasmussen, Professor, dr.scient., member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. Introduced by DIAS Chair, Lars Boje Mortensen.


The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 in the Judean desert. There were parchment fragments from approximately 800 ancient manuscripts, and they constitute the most important biblical find ever. Most of the fragments were brought to École Biblique et Archéologique Française in East Jerusalem, where a small team of biblical scholars for over 40 years struggled to read, translate, and publish them. It soon transpired that none of the important texts contained any date referencing, wherefore paleographic dating became of paramount importance. Only later, in 1992 and 1995, tandem accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating was carried out on a total of 21 fragments. In 2001 it was discovered that the parchments were contaminated with modern day castor oil used by the original team of readers in the 1950’s and 1960’s, leaving the radiocarbon dates from 1992 and 1995 untrustworthy. A 20-year endeavor to find a method to clean the parchments was instigated at SDU.

In the lecture I will introduce the historical setting of the scrolls in modern times – the What, When, and by Whom. Then I will describe the handling of the contamination and lift the shroud a little bit of the results from an ERC-project in Holland, Italy, and Denmark under which auspices the Israeli authorities have allowed us to make a final and authoritative radiocarbon dating battery soon to be published.

This lecture takes place in the DIAS Auditorium, Fioniavej 34, Odense Campus. No registration is needed.