Analyzing the Dead

The Dead Sea Scrolls are decaying, they have been since their discovery in the 1940s and 1950s, so any analytical procedure used to investigate them has to be as non-invasive as possible. Now, X-ray fluorescence has been used to help scholars settle a decades-old archeological debate: were the Dead Sea Scroll texts written in the environs or were they just stored there? Researchers in Germany are using the non-invasive analytical technique to determine the origins of the parchment itself using the bromine to chlorine ratio locked inside. Parchment was made by soaking animal skin in water, Given that the Br:Cl ratio varies between water sources it might be possible to pin down where the parchment was made. Of course, the origin of the parchment would not necessarily settle the debate as parchment could have been traded across great distances before it was used.