I visited an exhibit showing some of the Dead Sea Scrolls yesterday. The ancient texts were indeed the star attraction, but there were two bits of information I found particularly interesting:
- During the excavation of Qumran (a settlement near the caves where the scrolls were discovered), inkwells were found in a room with the remains of bench-type furniture. Some believe that the room was a scriptorium where manuscripts were copied. Even though the bench could have been used much like the desks we use today, some scholars believe that such use didn’t occur until medieval times. The people using the bench may have sat on the floor with their backs to the bench. The exhibit had a reproduction of the bench and drawings of how it may have been used. (By the way, some scholars do not interpret the room as a scriptorium but as a dining room instead.)
- Those attempting to restore the works in the 1950s meant well, but the techniques they used were damaging. People handled the fragments with bare hands, smoked while working with the fragments (!), and used cellophane tape to put fragments together. Restoration efforts of today include removing the adhesive residue left by the tape.