The Dead Sea Scrolls have yielded up one of their final secrets after archaeologists decoded one of the last fragments left to be deciphered.
A team pieced together sixty tiny, coded fragments over the course of a year, and found text identifying festivals in a unique 364-day calendar.
The famous scrolls were uncovered near the Dead Sea between 1946 and 1956.
The Scrolls contained versions of many Biblical texts – including books which were not canonised in the Hebrew Bible.
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It’s not known who wrote the scrolls, which are believed to date from the 4th Century BC, but some scholars believe they were produced by a desert sect known as the Essenes.
The new section of the scrolls were pieced together by Dr Eshbal Ratson and Prof Jonathan Ben-Dov of Haifa University.
The calendar was written in code, and some fragments were less than one square centimetre.
The scrolls chronicle festivals known as New Wheat, New Wine and New Oil, and a festival marking the change between seasons, known as Tefukah.
The researchers were assisted by corrections written in the margins by another scribe, correcting ‘mistakes’ made by the original author.
Dr Ratzon said, ‘What’s nice is that these comments were hints that helped me figure out the puzzle – they showed me how to assemble the scroll.’