It has been debated for centuries, but scholars think they are one step closer to discovering who wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls.
The world's oldest known biblical documents may have been penned by a sect called the Essenes, according to scholars who studied material discovered in caves at Qumran, in the West Bank.
Scholars previously believed the 2,000-year-old scrolls were written by a Jewish sect from Qumran in the Judean Desert and were hidden in the caves around 70AD, when the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem.
|Discovery: The research focuses on textiles discovered in Qumran, Israel|
|Analysis: Orit Shamir and Naama Sukenik looked at the materials of the scrolls discovered in Qumran|
The pair compared the white-linen textiles found in the caves to other found elsewhere in ancient Israel, and they discovered some parts are being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours, Live Science reports. But not everyone agrees with their diagnosis. Some believe the linen used could have come from people fleeing the Roman army after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and that they are in fact responsible for putting the scrolls into caves. Shamir and Sukenik were able to focus on the 200 textiles found in the Dead Sea Scroll caves and at Qumran itself, knowing that these are the only surviving textiles related to the scrolls. They unearthed that every single one of these textiles was made of linen, even though wool was the most popular fabric at the time in Israel.
|Debated: Scholars are divided as to who authored the scrolls (pictured is a fragment of the Isaiah scroll - the most famous of the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the mid-twentieth by shepherds)|
They also found that most of the textiles would have originally been used as clothing, later being cut apart and re-used for other purposes such as bandages and for packing the scrolls into jars. 'They wanted to be different than the Roman world,' Shamir told LiveScience. 'They were very humble, they didn't want to wear colorful textiles, they wanted to use very simple textiles.' 'This is very, very, important,' Shamir said. 'Patching is connected with [the] economic situation of the site.'
Shamir pointed out that textiles found at sites where people were under stress, such as at the Cave of Letters, used in a revolt against the Romans, were often patched. On the other hand 'if the site is in a very good economic situation, if it is a very rich site, the textiles will not be patched,' she said. The textiles are of high quality and, based on the archaeological finds at Qumran itself, where there is little evidence of spindle whorls or loom weights, the team thinks it's unlikely they would have been made at the site. She explained that the textiles were likely created at another site in Israel, with women playing a key role in their production. This suggests that there were few women living at Qumran itself as weaving is connected with men and women, but spinning was only a done women.