The Puzzling Case of Fragment 10 — Update

It has been some time since my last post, so what follows is an update on the progress of my project and what the next steps will be. To summarize briefly, the problem addressed by this project arises out of Hartmut Stegemann’s placement of fragments 10 + 34 + 42 in column 7 in his reconstruction of the Dead Sea scroll, 1QHodayota.[1] He placed this cluster of fragments on the basis of patterns of damage that he presumed the scroll had incurred while rolled and deposited in Cave 1 at Qumran. There is no textual or physical link between these fragments and the rest of column 7, and they have distinctive spelling and content that is incongruous with the surrounding material. Elisha Qimron has suggested that this cluster has been misplaced and belongs in an earlier column of the scroll; however, he has not proposed a specific placement or discussed the ramifications of removing the fragments from Stegemann’s column 7.[2] Most of the discussion about this problem has taken place in the footnotes of various publications, and a more thorough treatment is needed to outline the possibilities before they can be critically examined and adjudicated. My project seeks to elucidate and to contribute to the discussion using digital tools and recently developed methods to validate the placement of fragments in Dead Sea scrolls reconstructions. For more details on my project, please refer to my prior posts.

There have been two major developments since my last blogpost. I presented the initial phases of my research in the session, Dead Sea Scrolls II, at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting held at the University of Calgary on May 29, 2016. The paper was titled “Testing Stegemann’s Placement of Fragment 10 in the Reconstruction of 1QHodayota: Two Digital Approaches.” I discussed my use of two digital approaches for testing the spacing of textual reconstructions in between fragments (See previous post): one approach that uses a custom font modeled on the handwriting of the scribe and another that supplies “cloned” letters copied from extant parts of the manuscript. The presentation summarized the initial phase of my project, which was dedicated to establishing the research problem and experimenting with digital tools and methods on a smaller, lower-stakes aspect of the problem—Stegemann’s textual reconstructions—before tackling the more complex challenges of examining alternative placements for fragments 10 + 34 + 42 using the same approaches.

After presenting at CSBS, I had the opportunity to spend several days in Jerusalem to examine the manuscripts 1QHa and 4QHa at the archives of the Shrine of the Book and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Although I have access to images of these scrolls, sometimes there are questions that cannot be answered without seeing the manuscripts themselves. The columns of 1QHa are illegible in natural light because they have darkened due to decay, and in many cases one can only distinguish the ink from the writing surface with infrared images. Only infrared photos of 1QHa have been published so far, as they are useful for reading; however, they tend to flatten the features of the leather itself. Questions involving the reconstruction of a manuscript involve paying close attention to the words, the features of the leather, and the patterns of damage that persist throughout the scroll—a task for which IR images are ill-suited. Even if there were a series of high quality photos of 1QHa in natural light, they would not be as helpful as seeing the fragments themselves. One of the major concerns with fragments 10 + 34 + 42 and column 7 is the uneven shrinking and warping of the material and how it complicates attempts to judge the spacing necessary for textual reconstructions. Fragments are three-dimensional objects, so the evidence of shrinking and warping is clearest when viewed in person.

Having completed the initial phase of my project over the summer, I have since devoted my efforts to funding the final stages of research during an extended research trip to Jerusalem in the late Spring/early Summer of 2017. My brief visit to Jerusalem last summer impressed upon me the importance of being close to the manuscripts and to the network of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars in Israel. I have successfully applied for a research scholarship, which is offered by the Orion Center at the Hebrew University. This Center is part of the Institute of Jewish Studies and is dedicated to fostering scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls and its intersections with Jewish history and religion in the Second Temple period. The Orion Center Research Scholarship is intended to support a specific project relating to the Scrolls, which is to be carried out in Jerusalem. I proposed my larger thesis project, of which my work on the problem of fragments 10 + 34 + 42 is a fundamental first step. I intend to carry out the final stage of my project while in Jerusalem, after which I will begin to bring the project to a close by writing, visualizing, and disseminating the results.

In the next post, I will summarize some of the reasons that scholars have regarded the placement of frgs. 10 + 34 + 42 in col. 7 to be problematic.


[1]          Hartmut Stegeman and Eileen Schuller, DJD 40.

[2]          Elisha Qimron, The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One, (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010), 66.

Works Cited

Qimron, Elisha. The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010.

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

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