Dead Sea Scroll tract was precursor to Jewish calendar

Date:

Share post:

An obscure Babylonian document from the world famous Dead Sea Scroll collection was almost certainly  a precursor to the Jewish calendar according to University of Manchester research. 

The first Dead Sea Scrolls were found by Bedouin in a cave in the Judean Wilderness following WW II [Credit: Web]

Dr Helen Jacobus, a part-time doctoral student who graduated this month, investigated one of the 972 texts found in Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in Jordan between 1947 and 1956. 

The Babylonian text known as Qumran scroll ‘4Q318’and kept at the Israel Antiquities  Authority in Jerusalem, is thought  to have been written around 2000 years ago. 

Shown by Dr Jacobus to be a calendar – it contains predictions based on the moon’s position in the zodiac when the sound of thunder occurs. 

The calendar can still be used to find the moon’s position in the zodiac on a given date in the Jewish calendar – a calculation no other document  in the world is able to achieve. 

According to Dr Jacobus, the Aramaic month names used in the scroll are the same as those used in the Hebrew calendar today. They are, she says, Aramaic translations of the Babylonian month names. 

Dr Jacobus said: “This ancient tract can be still used a functioning lunar zodiac calendar , which was a precursor to the Jewish calendar of today. 

“The calendar is followed by an omen text, which makes predictions based on the moon’s sign of the zodiac on the day that thunder is heard. 

“The predictions are written in an archaic, anachronistic style, similar to the omen texts of the Akkadians, an ancient Semitic people.” 

“In contrast, the poetry in the Dead Sea Scrolls is sublime, sophisticated and are masterpieces of literature, so they definitely didn’t write 4Q318 in a way that was contemporary. 

“It is closely related to Greco-Babylonian zodiacal calendars and connected to a tradition of calendrical systems developed in Ptolemaic Egypt and Greece. 

“It adds hugely to our understanding of the history of the Jewish calendar, and of ancient calendars, astronomy and astrology. 

“It also tells us much tell us about the variety of different calendars in Palestine 2,000 years ago.” 

Her thesis is to be published as a book next year. 

Her paper entitled, A Jewish Zodiac Calendar at Qumran? was awarded the tenth  Annual Sean W. Dever Memorial Prize 2011 from the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, in Jerusalem, in March. 

This month’s international periodical Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) announced her a prize-winning article about the fragmentary calendar in the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

She added: “My research reveals this text is an important precursor to the Hebrew calendar used by Jews across the world today. However, its method of functioning has been relatively unexplored. So it is gratifying that that my research has been recognised by the Sean W. Dever Memorial prize.” 

Source: University of Manchester [July 29, 2011]

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

Neanderthal demise due to many influences, including cultural changes

As an ice age crept upon them thousands of years ago, Neanderthals and modern human ancestors expanded their...

More on Jordan’s earliest buildings discovered

A  joint team of American, British, Danish and Jordanian archaeologists working in eastern Jordan has announced its discovery...

NASA launching experiment to examine beginnings of universe

When did the first stars and galaxies form in the universe? How brightly did they burn their nuclear...

Archaeologists find clues to Neanderthal extinction

Computational modeling that examines evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change...

Geochemical method finds links between terrestrial climate and atmospheric CO2

Nearly 34 million years ago,  Earth underwent a transformation from a warm, high-carbon dioxide "greenhouse" state to a...

Ancient cooking pots reveal gradual transition to agriculture

Humans may have undergone a gradual rather than an abrupt transition from fishing, hunting and gathering to farming,...

Wide binary stars wreak havoc in planetary systems

An international team of astrophysicists has shown that planetary systems with very distant binary stars are particularly susceptible...

Roman finds unearthed at Peterborough solar farm

Roman pottery, evidence of a Roman settlement and "possibly Saxon" artefacts have been found at a proposed solar...