…word about Seales’ software reached the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). They already had the Ein Gedi scroll scanned with a micro-CT machine but couldn’t make sense of the information. Could Seales help? A meeting was arranged in the U.S., and over lunch, he was handed a hard drive containing terabytes of raw data. Though in much better condition than the Roman scrolls, the Hebrew parchment offered its own challenges. Made of animal skin instead of plant-based papyrus, it had bubbled and blistered over the years. New programming tricks that corrected for those imperfections in the data would be needed.
“This is probably a simpler problem than the Herculaneum scrolls, which are really the worst-case scenario in the field,” says Vito Mocella of the Italian National Research Council, who heads the Italian team that ultimately found a way to read letters on the Roman scrolls using an enhanced scanning technique and a powerful particle accelerator. “But even if it’s simpler, it’s still not so easy.”
Luckily for Seales, the Hebrews added metal to their inks, which showed up clearly as bright white spots in the CT data. As his software virtually unwound a single layer from the middle of the scroll, text revealed itself: “The LORD summoned Moses and spoke to him,” it began. Israeli translators identified the words as the first verse of Leviticus, the book of laws.