Palaeography, the study of ancient writing

THE WORDS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

Palaeography and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Scholars need to know more than just the meaning of the words to interpret and reconstruct the scrolls. They must also know letter forms, punctuation, and abbreviations They must know various styles of handwriting used for different purposes; common writing customs in use at different times; and notes and abbreviations made by ancient editors. Understanding the language, vocabulary and grammar used at a given time or place can also help scholars identify forgeries.

Knowledge of writing materials is also essential, not only to the study of handwriting but also to identify the period when a document or manuscript may have been produced. In order to assign the text a date and a place of origin, the palaeographer must take into account the style and form of the manuscript and the handwriting used to create it.

Unless the ancient author spelled out the exact date they wrote the text, a modern paleographer can’t be certain of the document’s age. But by using these techniques, a researcher can home in on a time range when the document was most likely composed.

What does it feel like to be a palaeographer? Click on these links to see samples of Dead Sea Scroll texts for up-close examination.

Photo by Bejinhan via Wikipedia Commons
Studying the unique characteristics of the handwritten letters of Hebrew along with understanding the grammar and usage of the time helps a palaeographer piece together the clues of information imbedded in a written text.
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What does it feel like to be a palaeographer? Click on these links to see samples of Dead Sea Scroll texts for up-close examination.