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Issue 19, 2013
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Quantifying degradation of collagen in ancient manuscripts: the case of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll

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Abstract

Since their discovery in the late 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls, some 900 ancient Jewish texts, have never stopped attracting the attention of scholars and the broad public alike, because they were created towards the end of the Second Temple period and the “time of Christ”. Most of the work on them has been dedicated to the information contained in the scrolls' text, leaving physical aspects of the writing materials unexamined. They are, however, crucial for both historical insight and preservation of the scrolls. Although scientific analysis requires handling, it is essential to establish the state of degradation of these valued documents. Polarized Raman Spectroscopy (PRS) is a powerful tool for obtaining information on both the composition and the level of disorder of molecular units. In this study, we developed a non-invasive and non-destructive methodology that allows a quantification of the disorder (that can be related to the degradation) of protein molecular units in collagen fibers. Not restricted to collagen, this method can be applied also to other protein-based fibrous materials such as ancient silk, wool or hair. We used PRS to quantify the degradation of the collagen fibers in a number of fragments of the Temple Scroll (11Q19a). We found that collagen fibers degrade heterogeneously, with the ones on the surface more degraded than those in the core.

Graphical abstract: Quantifying degradation of collagen in ancient manuscripts: the case of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll

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Publication details

The article was received on 28 Mar 2013, accepted on 17 Jun 2013 and first published on 18 Jun 2013


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3AN00609C
Analyst, 2013,138, 5594-5599
  • Open access: Creative Commons BY license
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    Quantifying degradation of collagen in ancient manuscripts: the case of the Dead Sea Temple Scroll

    R. Schütz, L. Bertinetti, I. Rabin, P. Fratzl and A. Masic, Analyst, 2013, 138, 5594
    DOI: 10.1039/C3AN00609C

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