Italian professor says has found world’s oldest complete Torah in Bologna

May 29, 2013

(A scroll identified by Italian professor Mauro Perani as the world’s oldest complete scroll of the Torah is seen in Bologna, Italy,  May 29, 2013.
REUTERS/Mauro Perani/Handout via Reuters)

An Italian professor said on Wednesday he has identified what he believes is the world’s oldest complete scroll of the Torah, containing the full text of the first five books of Hebrew scripture.

Mauro Perani, professor of Hebrew at the University of Bologna, said experts and carbon dating tests done in Italy and the United States dated the scroll as having been made between 1155 and 1225.

The scroll, which has been in possession of the Bologna University Library for more than 100 years, had been previously thought to be from the 17th century. It had been labelled “scroll 2″.

There are many fragments of the Torah that are older but not complete scrolls with all five books.

“A Jew who was a librarian at the university examined the scroll in 1889 for a catalogue and wrote ’17th century followed by a question mark,’” Perani said in a telephone interview.

But in preparation for a new catalogue of the university’s Judaica collection, Perani, 63, studied the scroll and suspected that the librarian had made too cursory an examination in 1889 and not recognised its antiquity.

“I realised that the style of the writing was older than the 17th century so I consulted with other experts,” he said of the scroll, which measures 36 metres by 64 cm (39 yards by 25 inches).

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