Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 402, Issue 4, pp 1551–1557 | Cite as

Solid-state and unilateral NMR study of deterioration of a Dead Sea Scroll fragment

  • A. MasicEmail author
  • M. R. Chierotti
  • R. Gobetto
  • G. Martra
  • I. Rabin
  • S. Coluccia
Original Paper


Unilateral and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyses were performed on a parchment fragment of the Dead Sea Scroll (DSS). The analyzed sample belongs to the collection of non-inscribed and nontreated fragments of known archaeological provenance from the John Rylands University Library in Manchester. Therefore, it can be considered as original DSS material free from any contamination related to the post-discovery period. Considering the paramount significance of the DSS, noninvasive approaches and portable in situ nondestructive methods are of fundamental importance for the determination of composition, structure, and chemical–physical properties of the materials under study. NMR studies reveal low amounts of water content associated with very short proton relaxation times, T 1, indicating a high level of deterioration of collagen molecules within scroll fragments. In addition, 13C cross-polarization magic-angle-spinning (CPMAS) NMR spectroscopy shows characteristic peaks of lipids whose presence we attribute to the production technology that did not involve liming. Extraction with chloroform led to the reduction of both lipid and protein signals in the 13C CPMAS spectrum indicating probable involvement of lipids in parchment degradation processes. NMR absorption and relaxation measurements provide nondestructive, discriminative, and sensitive tools for studying the deterioration effects on the organization and properties of water and collagen within ancient manuscripts.


The state of deterioration of a Dead Sea scroll fragment was studied by means of 1H and 13C solid state NMR and proton T 1 relaxation measurements


Dead Sea Scrolls Collagen deterioration Solid-state NMR Unilateral NMR 



The authors are grateful to the Piedmont Region for financial support. This work was performed as part of the EU IDAP (Improved Damage Assessment of Parchment, EVK4-2001-00061). We would like to thank Prof. G. Della Gatta, Dr. E. Badea, Dr. M. Odlyha, and Dr. R. Larsen for helpful discussions and support of this research. AM is grateful for the support by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Max Planck Society in the framework of the Max Planck Research Award funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Masic
    • 1
    Email author
  • M. R. Chierotti
    • 2
  • R. Gobetto
    • 2
  • G. Martra
    • 2
  • I. Rabin
    • 3
  • S. Coluccia
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiomaterialsMax Planck Institute of Colloids and InterfacesPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Department of Chemistry IFM and NIS Centre of ExcellenceUniversity of TorinoTorinoItaly
  3. 3.BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and TestingBerlinGermany

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