Monday, December 27, 2021

NLI St. Catherine's Manuscripts Online

The National Library of Israel has uploaded its images of a large number of manuscripts from St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai here. The website also includes some background on the images.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

ChrysoCollate by Sébastien Moureau

Sébastien Moureau has developed and uploaded for free download and use a new computer program for collation and critical editing called ChrysoCollate. I haven't tried it out yet, but it looks like a useful tool for those editing on a budget.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Faddan More Psalter

Lisa O'Carroll has a fascinating article on the discovery and preservation of the Faddan More Psalter, a 1,200-year-old Latin psalter that survived the centuries in an Irish bog.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Paul Flesher on the Aramaic Targums

 Christopher Dost has posted an interesting interview with Paul Flesher on the Aramaic Targums.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Michael Press on Moses Shapira

Michael Press has an interesting piece in Ancient Jew Review on the myth of Moses Shapira as expert forger. Spoiler... He does not give credence to those who think Shapira's Deuteronomy scroll was authentic, but says that Shapira was a conman who sold the forgeries of others, rather than producing them himself.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tiqqunei Soferim in the Cairo Genizah

Joseph Ginsberg announces the discovery of several previously unknown tiqqunei soferim "(euphemistic) emendations of the scribes" in Cairo Genizah fragments from Cambridge:

  1. Num 14:10
  2. Gen 18:16
  3. Isa 26:19
  4. Exod 32:7

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Brent Nongbri on the Vatican DSS Fragments

Brent Nongbri has a brief note with images on the two Vatican Museum Dead Sea Scroll fragments. I must admit that I too was surprised to see them when I first noticed them in the Vatican Museum years ago. Trying to examine them upside down in poor lighting while resisting a torrent of people wasn't very successful at the time. :)

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Codicology Jobs

For those interested in ancient codicology and cultural heritage, Brent Nongbri has recently announced openings for two postdoctoral fellowships on his exciting new EthiCodex project.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Facebook AI and Automated Stylized Text Generation

Facebook AI researchers have announced a new TextStyleBrush feature that can extract text and style from both printed and handwritten sample words and apply that same style to generate new text in the same style. This is a fascinating new development with possible applications for style classification in ancient handwritten scripts as well.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Paleographic Style and the Forms and Functions of the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls

My article on the style and function of the Dead Sea Psalm scrolls has now been published as an advance article! By way of background, this is a crucial part of my argument that the forms of the manuscripts suggest possible functions, which in turn helps us interpret their contents.

Drew Longacre, "Paleographic Style and the Forms and Functions of the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls: A Hand Fitting for the Occasion?" Vetus Testamentum (2021): 1-26.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Roman Writing Equipment

Anna Willi has published a beautiful volume for the LatinNow project on writing materials. The book is published freely as an e-book: Manual of Everyday Roman Writing, Vol. 2: Writing Equipment.

HT Peter Head

Monday, May 31, 2021

Scribes and Their Remains

T&T Clark has a new book out called Scribes and Their Remains. From the website, the book includes the following chapters, mostly on early Christian scribes, manuscripts, and scribal practices:

About Scribes and Their Remains

Scribes and Their Remains begins with an introductory essay by Stanley Porter which addresses the principal theme of the book: the text as artifact. 

The rest of the volume is then split into two major sections. In the first, five studies appear on the theme of 'Scribes, Letters, and Literacy.' In the first of these Craig A. Evans offers a lengthy piece that argues that the archaeological, artifactual, and historical evidence suggests that New Testament autographs and first copies may well have remained in circulation for one century or more, having the effect of stabilizing the text. Other pieces in the section address literacy, orality and paleography of early Christian papyri. 

In the second section there are five pieces on 'Writing, Reading, and Abbreviating Christian Scripture.' These range across numerous topics, including an examination of the stauros (cross) as a nomen sacrum.

Table of contents

Editors Introduction 
Text as Artifact: An Introduction - Stanley E. Porter, McMaster Divinity College, Canada
Part I: Scribes, Letters, and Literacy
1. Longevity of Late Antique Autographs and First Copies: A Postscriptum - Craig A. Evans, Houston Baptist University, USA
2. Greek Writ Plain: Village Scribes, Q, and the Palaeography of the Earliest Christian Papyri - Gregg Schwendner, Wichita State University, USA
3. My Lord and Protector: Papyri and Skepe Patronage in Sirach and 3 Maccabees - Christopher J. Cornthwaite, Canadian Institute in Greece, Greece
4. Hilarion's Letter to His Wife, Child Exposure, and Early Christianity - Jeremiah J. Johnston, Houston Baptist University, USA
5. Fetishizing the Word: Literacy, Orality and the Dead Sea Scrolls - Ian C. Werrett, St Martin's University, USA
Part II: Writing, Reading, and Abbreviating Christian Scripture
6. Signed with an “X”: Stauros and the Staurogram Among the Nomina Sacra - Benjamin R. Overcash, Macquarie University, USA
7. New Light from the Papyri: The Sacred Background of Biblos in Matthew 1:1 - Michael P. Theophilos, Australian Catholic University, Australia
8. The Early Papyri, “Gospel-Parallel” Variants, and the Text of the New Testament in the Second Century - Roy D. Kotansky, Independent Scholar
9. Terms of Kinship from Usage in Everyday Language to Official Christian Life - Eleonora Angela Conti, University of Florence, Italy 
10. Early Christian Rolls - Marco Stroppa, University of Florence, Italy

Tercatin on Biblical Paperbacks and the Psalms

Rossella Tercatin has written a nice Jerusalem Post article on my ongoing work on the Psalms entitled 2,000 years ago Jews used biblical ‘paperbacks’. I like the analogy with modern paperbacks very much, and she does a great job summarizing some of my main directions of research. If anyone is curious to learn more about the early dating of some of the Psalm scrolls, check out my recent lecture Digital Paleography & Diachronic Development in the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

University of Pretoria Dead Sea Scrolls Conference Recordings

The University of Pretoria's International Dead Sea Scrolls conference recordings have now been uploaded for online viewing. They include several presentations relevant for OTTC.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

The Scribe(s?) of the Great Isaiah Scroll

Mladen Popović, Maruf Dhali, and Lambert Schomaker have now published their groundbreaking PLOS ONE paper arguing that there are strong paleographic indications that the two halves of the Great Isaiah Scroll were written by two different writers.

Artificial intelligence based writer identification generates new evidence for the unknown scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls exemplified by the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa)

More background on the project can be found in their recent presentations herehere, and here.

Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture Recordings Online

I am happy to announce that the recordings from the 2021 Groningen International Symposium "Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture" are now available online. These are great resources for those interested in the current state of digital paleography and the study of Hebrew/Aramaic scripts.

You can find the program and direct links on the conference web page.

The videos are hosted on the University of Groningen YouTube channel on a dedicated playlist

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Modern Papyrus Production

Business Insider has an interesting video on modern papyrus manufacture in Al-Qaramous, Egypt, for those who are interested.

A 3rd Millennium Origin of Early Alphabetic?

Christopher Rollston gives a fascinating discussion of recent finds of clay cylinders at Tell Umm el-Marra in Western Syria that appear to be inscribed in Early Alphabetic script. They were found in what is said to be a firm 3rd millennium BCE archeological context, which Rollston concedes could imply that Early Alphabetic was invented earlier than is normally assumed (19th-18th centuries BCE).

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Friday, April 9, 2021

Biblical Criticism and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The "Biblical Criticism and the Dead Sea Scrolls" conference series convened by John Screnock at the University of Oxford has begun posting recorded sessions online. These are some great presentations by leading scholars, so I highly recommend taking a look at them if you have the time.

Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture

Thanks to everyone who helped make the 2021 International Groningen Symposium "Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture" a smashing success! It was full of exciting papers and vibrant discussion between computer scientists and paleographers, which I hope will be a starting point for many future collaborations and discussions.

For those who were not able to attend, I wanted to let you know that the sessions were recorded and will be made available online in the near future.


UPDATE 21 April 2021

You can find the program and direct links on the conference web page.

The videos are hosted on the University of Groningen YouTube channel on a dedicated playlist

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Comparative Hellenistic and Roman Manuscript Studies (CHRoMS)

I just got word today that my Comparative Hellenistic and Roman Manuscript Studies (CHRoMS) article has now been published online:

Thanks again to all who contributed, and especially Eugenia Sokolinski for all her help getting it ready and online.

The article stems from several observations of parallels between different scripts in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, which I then developed in greater detail. This is my attempt to explain many of the most prominent stylistic developments in the Hebrew/Aramaic scripts, whose causes have to my mind never been sufficiently elucidated. I hope to build this into a larger comparative manuscript studies project.

Comparative Hellenistic and Roman Manuscript Studies (CHRoMS): Script Interactions and Hebrew/Aramaic Writing Culture

Longacre, Drew

    Writing is an expression of culture and is subject to intercultural influences. In this comparative study, I argue that Egyptian and Judean Hebrew/Aramaic scripts from 400 BCE–400 CE were heavily influenced by Greek and later Latin writing cultures, which explains many previously inexplicable phenomena. Jewish writers in the third century BCE adopted the Greek split-nibbed reed pen, which dramatically changed the appearance of Hebrew/Aramaic scripts. At the same time, the normal size for Hebrew/ Aramaic scripts shrank considerably, the pen strokes became mostly monotone and unshaded, and the scripts became more rectilinear, angular, bilinear, and square.
    Each of these features appears to be due to direct imitation of contemporary Greek formal writing. Beginning in the first century BCE, Hebrew/Aramaic writers began to decorate their formal scripts with separate ornamental strokes like those of contemporary Greek and Latin calligraphic scripts. And from the second or third century CE, Hebrew/Aramaic calligraphic scripts seem to be increasingly characterized by horizontal shading, parallel to the contemporary rise of Greek and Latin shaded scripts. Furthermore, in the late Roman period, the traditional Hieratic-derived Aramaic numeral system was replaced by an alphabetic numeral system under the influence of the Greek Milesian alphabetic numerals.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

2500-year-old Torah from Turkey... Again...

So, apparently they found another 2500-year-old Torah in Turkey... :) Is it too much to ask our Turkish fraudster friends at least to copy-paste a real Torah text from the internet!?!? Surely that's not asking too much?

HT Jack Sasson

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture Conference Program and Registration

Digital Palaeography and Hebrew/Aramaic Scribal Culture



The 2021 International Online Groningen Symposium

6–8 April 2021

13:00–20:00 Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)


Hosted by the

Qumran Institute (University of Groningen)

Bernoulli Institute (University of Groningen)




To register, please email Drew Longacre at

A Zoom invitation will be sent to presenters and registered attendees on 5 April.


Tuesday, 6 April


13:00 CET       Jouke de Vries (President of the University of Groningen)



                        Mladen Popović (University of Groningen)




Session 1 — The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Digital Palaeography

Chair: Eibert Tigchelaar


13:15         Mladen Popović (University of Groningen)

Digital Palaeography for Identifying the Unknown Scribes and Dating the Undated Manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls


13:45         Maruf Dhali (University of Groningen)

Artificial Intelligence and Pattern Recognition Techniques in Analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls


14:15         Gemma Hayes (University of Groningen)

    Digital Palaeography and the Scribes of the Dead Sea Scrolls 


14:45         Drew Longacre (University of Groningen)

Data Mining for Writer Identification: The Test Case of the Dead Sea Psalm Scrolls


15:15         Discussion



15:30–16:15    Break



Session 2 —  The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Radiocarbon Dating

Chair: Mladen Popović


16:15         Kaare Rasmussen (University of Southern Denmark)

The 14C Dating in the ERC project “The Hands that Wrote the Bible”: Chemical Aspects and the Cleaning of the Samples


16:45         Hans van der Plicht (University of Groningen)

The 14C Dating in the ERC project “The Hands that Wrote the Bible”: Physical Aspects and the Measurement of the 14C Content


17:15         Discussion



17:30–18:15    Break



Session 3 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography

Chair: Drew Longacre


18:15         Michael Langlois (University of Strasbourg)

Deciphering Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic Inscriptions in a Digital World: Potential and Limitations


18:45         James Moore (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)

Toward a Systematic Description of the Imperial Aramaic Script and its Meaning for Dating and Writer Identification




19:15         Bronson Brown-deVost (University of Göttingen)

Scripta Qumranica Electronica


19:30         Daniel Stoekl ben Ezra (École Pratique des Hautes Études)



19:45         Sarah Yardney and Miller Prosser (University of Chicago)



20:00   Conclusion


Wednesday, 7 April


13:00 CET       Welcome



Session 4 —  Digital Palaeography

Chair: Maruf Dhali


13:15         Lambert Schomaker (University of Groningen)



13:45         Peter Stokes (École Pratique des Hautes Études)

When is a Scribe Not a Scribe? Some Reflections on Writer Identification


14:15         Nachum Dershowitz (Tel Aviv University)

    Computational Paleography


14:45         Discussion



15:00–15:45    Break



Session 5 —  Digital Palaeography

Chair: Lambert Schomaker


15:45         Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin (Tel Aviv University)

Algorithmic Handwriting Analysis of Iron Age Documents and its Implications to the Composition of Biblical Texts


16:15         Hussein Mohammed (Universität Hamburg)

Pattern-Recognition Approaches for Handwriting-Style Analysis


16:45         Eythan Levy (Tel Aviv University) and Frédéric Pluquet (Haute École Louvain en Hainaut [HELHa] - Tournai and Ecole Supérieure d'Informatique [ESI] - Brussels)

New Developments in the Scrypt Software for Old Hebrew Epigraphy


17:15         Discussion



17:30–18:15    Break




Session 6 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography

Chair: Gemma Hayes


18:15         Judith Olszowy-Schlanger (University of Oxford)

Hebrew Palaeography Album: A New Online Tool to Study Medieval Hebrew Manuscripts


18:45         Elvira Martín-Contreras (Spanish National Research Council)

Distinguishing Scribal Hands in the Masora of the Medieval Hebrew Bible Manuscripts




19:15         Joe Uziel (Israel Antiquities Authority)

IAA projects


19:30         Isabelle Marthot-Santaniello (University of Basel)



19:45         James Moore (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)



20:00   Conclusion



Thursday, 8 April


13:00 CET       Welcome



Session 7 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography and Textual Communities

Chair: Mladen Popović


13:15         Eibert Tigchelaar (KU Leuven)

Scribal Culture, Palaeography, and the Scrolls


13:45         Ayhan Aksu (University of Groningen)

Leaving No Scroll Unturned: Opisthographs and Scribal Culture of the Dead Sea Scrolls 


14:15         Hanneke van der Schoor (KU Leuven)

Assessing Palaeographic Variation in Informal Manuscripts: The Scribe(s) of the Testament of Qahat and Visions of Amrame


14:45         Discussion



15:00–15:45    Break



Session 8 —  Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography

Chair: Ayhan Aksu


15:45         Nadia Vidro (University College London)

Calendars from the Cairo Genizah as a Dating Tool for Palaeography


16:15         Estara J Arrant (University of Cambridge)

From Scholastic to Scribal: A Developmental Analysis of “Unprofessional” Square Hebrew Script from Cairo Genizah Bible Fragments


16:45         Elihu Shannon (Sofer STaM)

Why My Script is Different from My Teacher's


17:15         Discussion



17:30–18:15    Break




Session 9 —  Final Discussion Panels

Chairs: Drew Longacre and Maruf Dhali


18:15         Digital Palaeography Panel Discussion


18:45         Hebrew/Aramaic Palaeography and Scribal Culture Panel Discussion


19:15         Final Open Discussion

20:00   Conclusion


Monday, March 22, 2021

New 8ḤevXII gr Fragments and Radiocarbon Dating

There have been several news reports that the new Greek fragments of 8ḤevXII gr were radiocarbon dated to the 2nd century CE, which has raised concerns online. I confirmed with Joe Uziel of the IAA that the new fragments were in fact NOT subjected to radiocarbon dating, so we remain dependent upon the same arguments from paleography and archeological context for the date of the scroll.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Klawans on the Shapira Deuteronomy Fragments

Jonathan Klawans has an interesting contribution on the Shapira Deuteronomy fragments concerning suspiciously Christian-sounding readings, which augments the suspicious epigraphic evidence.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

New Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Haaretz, the New York Times, and the AP (among others) report on some new Greek Minor Prophets fragments from the Nahal Ḥever Cave of Horrors, including a few nice images. Presumably these are from the same scroll as the famous Kaige Greek Minor Prophets scroll.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Friedeman, A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature

Caleb T. Friedeman has just published what looks to be a very useful reference work:  Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature.

Publisher's product description:

 A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature is a comprehensive Scrip­ture index that catalogs approximately 90,000 references to the Bible found in classical rabbinic literature. This literature compris­es two categories: (1) Talmudic literature (i.e., the Mishnah and related works) and (2) midrashic literature (i.e., biblical commentary).

Each rabbinic reference includes a hard citation following SBL Hand­book of Style, the page number where the reference can be found in a standard English edition, and an indication of whether the biblical reference is a direct citation, allusion, or editorial reference. This incredibly handy reference work is the first of its kind and is a welcome addition to Hendrickson’s well-crafted line of reference books.

Key points and features:

  • A comprehensive Scripture index to classical rabbinic literature in English
  • Includes references to the Mishnah, the Tosefta, the Jerusalem Tal­mud, and the Babylonian Talmud, as well as the Mekilta, Midrash Rabbah, Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer, and many more
  • Approximately 90,000 references include a hard citation, a page number in a standard English edition, and an indication of wheth­er the biblical reference is a direct citation, allusion, or editorial reference
  • Saves researchers large amounts of time and energy by bringing together a vast amount of data that was previously located across many disparate resources.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Dershowitz on the Shapira Deuteronomy

The New York Times has a piece highlighting a recent article and book by Idan Dershowitz arguing again for the authenticity of the Shapira Deuteronomy fragments. Looking briefly through the article and book, his argument is that 1) Shapira's private papers suggest he did not forge it; 2) paleographic and material arguments against its authenticity are not definitive; and 3) its text seems to reflect a an early precursor to the canonical form of Deuteronomy. While Dershowitz brings important information to the discussion, I doubt he will be able to convince many.

Dershowitz seems particularly enamored with the literary-critical arguments, suggesting that no forger at the time could have anticipated the ways the scroll corresponds to modern literary-critical reconstructions. Without going through his full argument, I must say that I am considerably less enamored with these types of literary-critical arguments in general. They tend to be very subjective and debatable, hardly to be considered solid evidentiary grounds. I have seen enough unwarranted suggestions that Dead Sea Scrolls were the sources for biblical texts to be quite skeptical in this regard. For instance, the lack of legal material can at least as easily be explained based on the interests of a 19th-century Christian target audience as an earlier form of the book.

So ultimately, I would stress that the epigraphic evidence must take precedence when it comes to questions of authenticity. As Christopher Rollston emphasizes, we don't have the material artifacts that would be necessary to conduct standard tests for authenticity, but the epigraphic evidence seems strongly against its authenticity. Dershowitz argues that we can't do a paleographic analysis based on inaccurate drawings, but we do have a number of independent visual records that all seem to point in the same general direction. With even a superficial glance: 1) script doesn't look typologically right for what we would expect from an authentic script from the period; 2) there's not a hint of evidence for a brush, which would probably have been used for ink writing; 3) it is the extremely sloppy work of an unskilled and/or careless writer (just look at the line arrangement, even if you don't trust the drawings of particular letter forms); 4) the column dimensions and proportions seem all wrong for what I would expect from a literary scroll; 5) would such a text even be written on ruled animal skin at that time, and why don't the lines respect the ruling? I haven't worked through all the details, but everything about it looks fishy to me, and I know others who have looked at it more closely suggest the same.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

William Johnson, "From Bookroll to Codex"

I just found a lecture by William Johnson, "From Bookroll to Codex," which I highly recommend. Johnson has worked extensively on book roll formats, and he has been working recently on early codex formats.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Haaretz on Scroll Reconstruction

Ruth Schuster has just published an interesting article in Haaretz highlighting the recent article by Ratzon and Dershowitz on scroll length reconstruction, complete with some responses by yours truly.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Radiocarbon Dating of P.Köln Inv. 5941

In a recent COMSt article Date, Materiality and Historical Significance of P.Köln Inv. 5941, the authors report a new analysis of an old Hebrew liturgical manuscript reportedly from Oxyrhynchus. The ink is apparently a mixed iron-gall ink, making it an important early example of this ink type. A sample was radiocarbon dated to the late 3rd or 4th century CE, which accords well with Edna Engel's paleographic dating. Before reading the article, I looked briefly at the fragment paleographically, and I supposed a date from the 3rd-5th centuries. So here we have a good example where material and paleographic evidence support dating another important document to the dark ages of Hebrew manuscripts. See also my article on EGLev.