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Re: One Thousand Scribes

On Fri, 8 Nov 1996, Greg Doudna wrote:

> Excellent, Martin!  This is progress!  I looked at 
> the Brill photos for 4Q259 (4QSe)
> and 4Q319 (Otot) and the hands certainly look alike.  

Question: If two scribes are trained at the same school,
they are taught to hold the pen at the same angle, chose
the same pen for a given script, to copy "seamlessly," etc.
If the texts are written by "school" scribes, their hands 
will "look alike." However, scribes do have idiosyncracies, 
and the only way we can distinguish the hands of two -- or 
more -- scribes in a given text is their ideographs. Have 
you found ideographs?


> In my dreams I see one day a pattern-recognition program
> for Qumran palaeography.  An image of a given letter, say
> an aleph, would be entered and the program would hum and 
> purr for a moment, then spit out a list of ancient Dead
> Sea texts and inscriptions with similar shapes of alephs.
> More letters could be entered.  If police labs can
> identify fingerprints, why cannot the same pattern-matching
> technology be used for Qumran palaeography?  

Well, yes ... and this type of pattern-recognition utility is
something I've been playing with -- off and on -- for five
years. Fingerprints are much simpler;  you are talking about the
"handwriting" problem. 'Filbert' (a "filbert" is a nut, and I've 
been told I'm nuts to work on this :-)) is working at 75-79% 
accuracy on Insular ... but we need at least 95% for the utility 
to be useful. (Qumran palaeography is actually easier, but if 'Filbert'
will run on Insular, it will handle Qumran...  forget about scripts such
as the Merovingian chancery -- any script likened to the work of a
demented spider is beyond current computer capability.)

> A final comment on the implications of the large number of
> scribes represented in the Qumran texts: let us get OUT of
> our heads this notion of a community _writing its own texts_,
> whether at Qumran or anywhere else.  That is not what the
> material evidence of these many scribes and so few duplicate
> works indicates!  What is in evidence is the remains of a 
> collection, a library, in which texts were
> purchased or obtained from other sources.  

I agree, but this makes distinguishing ideographs even
more important.

> Someone collected
> copies of many things.  The contents of this collection may
> well yield much information about the interests of the owner(s)
> of this library.  But the picture I see is a collection over
> a period of time from many sources, and then a one-time
> stash of this library in the caves at Qumran as a hiding.  
> There is no reason at all to locate this library at Qumran 
> _prior_ to the deposition of the texts in the caves.  This is
> one of those logical leaps that simply does not logically
> follow.  

> One of the Qumran texts in the caves explicitly tells of a
> hiding of resources from Jerusalem and gives a first-person 
> reference which may help identify who was behind the whole thing.
> I refer to 3Q15 3.9 and the hiding of "my garments", which 
> appears to point to a high priest from Jerusalem.

The only argument with the scenario I can see is the "one-time." 
Cave 4 reminds me of a closed-shelf library "reading room."
Perhaps the pre-existence of such a library suggested a good place
to stash "my garments"??


risa@concentric.net                                  Dr. R. I. S. Altman
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FAX: 602-423-8389                                        Mesa, AZ  85201