What is being described as the oldest Torah scroll known to exist was discovered in the library of the University of Bologna.
The parchment scroll had been wrongly catalogued as dating from the 17th century, a university statement said.
“Instead, ‘Roll 2’ was copied in a period between the second half of the 12th and the early 13th century (1155-1225) and is therefore the most ancient complete Hebrew scroll of the Torah known today,” according to the statement.
The age was authenticated by “the textual, graphic and paleographic examination of the scroll,” according to the university, as well as by two carbon-14 tests carried out at the University of Illinois.
Hebrew professor Mauro Perani made the discovery during his work compiling a new catalog for the university library’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts.
The Torah scroll had been misdated when it was included in the first catalog of the library’s Hebrew manuscripts made in 1889. Upon examining the scroll, Perani noted many features of script and form that indicated it was far older than had been estimated.
It is not known how or when the scroll was acquired by the library, but the university’s statement said it was “very likely” to have been acquired in the 19th century “after Napoleon’s suppression of monastic and religious orders.”