Today, one of the last remaining Dead Sea Scrolls has been completely pieced together and deciphered by two Israeli researchers at Haifa University in Israel more than 50 years after they were discovered. The collection is considered the oldest Bible discovered, dating back to the 4th century B.C.
The Dead Sea Scrolls took a year to piece together, as it was found in 60 fragments, some smaller than 1 square centimeter (less than 0.2 sq in). It was also written in code.
Dr. Eshbal Ratson, who collaborated with another professor at the university, Jonathan Ben-Dov, credited part of their success in deciphering the scrolls to notes made on the scrolls by a second author correcting the first author's work. He commented to the Haaretz newspaper, "What's nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle - they showed me how to assemble the scroll."
This scroll is one of 900 others discovered in a cave in Qumran, just by the Dead Sea, in 1947, all of which have been deciphered but one. The scrolls were reportedly discovered by a Bedouin shepherd searching for a lost sheep.
Believe to be written by the Essenes, a dissident Jewish sect that retreated into the desert around Qumran and its caves, the scrolls include several of the earliest texts from the Bible, including the oldest copy of the Ten Commandments.
This particular scroll, which was just deciphered, describes special celebrations the Essenes held. This ancient sect utilized a 364-day calendar, unlike the traditional lunar calendar still used by Jews today. It spells out celebrations including the festivals of New Wheat, New Wine, and New Oil, which were all related to the Jewish festival of Shavuot.
Ratson and Ben-Dov also discovered that this sect used the word "Tekufah" to mark the transition between the four seasons - the same modern-day Hebrew word that means "period".