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In light of discussion of ink and inkwells,
the current issue of Dead Sea Discoveries 
(3/1996) contains an article by Yoram Nir-El 
and Magen Broshi entitled "The Black Ink of the 
Qumran Scrolls" (pp. 157-167).  For those who
have not seen it, this article reports on tests 
for chemical composition of inked areas, compared 
to non-inked areas, of parchment and papyrus texts 
from several Qumran caves.  The idea is that by 
examining the differences between inked and 
non-inked areas, information about composition of 
the ink may be obtained.

The results effectively rule out iron-based
ink (no surprise) but turned up traces of
lead and copper associated with some of the
ink (a surprise).  In explanation it is
proposed--seemingly convincingly--that the most 
likely explanation is leaching from a bronze 
inkwell (or other bronze container) which held 
the ink and conveyed it to the parchment or 
papyrus in the process of writing.  Not all
black inked areas tested showed this lead and
copper, which is interpreted as evidence that
the lead and copper was not a constituent of
the ink itself.    

Of the inkwells found at Qumran, one was bronze.
Unfortunately, while the physical evidence (if
the explanation is correct) appears to
point to the use of bronze inkwells or other
bronze containers in the writing of some Qumran
texts, this evidence does not establish which bronze 
inkwells were used or where in Palestine this occurred, 
and the question of physical evidence establishing that
production of Scrolls occurred at Qumran is 
not advanced.  But the association with bronze is
a new detail.  Detail by detail, test by test,
the Qumran field moves forward.  Thanks to 
Y. Nir-El and M. Broshi for these tests.

Greg Doudna