Video: Unrolling a biblical scroll without even touching it

Nearly 1500 years ago, a village in eastern Israel near modern-day Ein Gedi burned to the ground, leaving behind the charred remains of homes, a synagogue, and a scroll of the Hebrew Bible's Book of Leviticus. Now, nearly 50 years after the scroll was discovered buried in the burned synagogue, scientists can read its charred remains line by line, all without touching its crumbling animal skin manuscript. Through a technique called x-ray microtomography, researchers were able to create digital slices of the scroll, which they then separated into individual "pages" they could view using a computer, they report today in the journal Science Advances. The researchers then spliced together more than 100 separate pages by hand to create a single, "unrolled" scroll, as seen in the video above. Aside from the famed Dead Sea Scrolls, the Ein Gedi Scroll is the earliest scroll of writing from one of the books of the Torah, or the Jewish Bible, ever found. This noninvasive technique should allow researchers to read other fragile ancient documents, such as those buried by the 79 C.E. eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy, without ever having to lay a finger on them.