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Ancient Scroll May Yield Religious Secrets

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 1437 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... ANCIENT SCROLL MAY YIELD RELIGIOUS SECRETS By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2006
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      By Nicholas Paphitis
      With Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki
      Associated Press
      June 1, 2006


      ATHENS, Greece - A collection of charred scraps kept in a Greek museum's
      storerooms are all that remains of what archaeologists say is Europe's
      oldest surviving book -- which may hold a key to understanding early
      monotheistic beliefs.

      More than four decades after the Derveni papyrus was found in a 2,400-
      year-old nobleman's grave in northern Greece, researchers said Thursday they
      are close to uncovering new text -- through high-tech digital analysis --
      from the blackened fragments left after the manuscript was burnt on its
      owner's funeral pyre.

      Large sections of the mid-4th century B.C. book -- a philosophical treatise
      on ancient religion -- were read years ago, but never officially published.

      Now, archaeologist Polyxeni Veleni believes U.S. imaging and scanning
      techniques used to decipher the Judas Gospel -- which portrays Judas not as
      a sinister betrayer but as Jesus' confidant -- will considerably expand and
      clarify that text.

      "I believe some 10-20 percent of new text will be added, which however will
      be of crucial importance," said Veleni, director of the Thessaloniki
      Archaeological Museum, where the manuscript is kept.

      "This will fill in many gaps, we will get a better understanding of the
      sequence and the existing text will become more complete," Veleni told The
      Associated Press.

      The scroll, originally several yards of papyrus rolled around two wooden
      runners, was found half burnt in 1962. It dates to around 340 B.C., during
      the reign of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

      "It is the oldest surviving book, if you can use that word for a scroll, in
      western tradition," Veleni said. "This was a unique find, of exceptional

      Greek philosophy expert Apostolos Pierris said the text may be a century

      "It was probably written by somebody from the circle of the philosopher
      Anaxagoras, in the second half of the 5th century B.C.," he said.

      Anaxagoras, who lived in ancient Athens, is thought to have been the teacher
      of Socrates and was accused by his contemporaries of atheism.

      Last month, experts from Brigham Young University in Utah used multi-
      spectral digital analysis to create enhanced pictures of the text, which
      will be studied by Oxford University papyrologist Dirk Obbink and Pierris,
      and published by the end of 2007.

      "We were now able to read even the most carbonized sections, as there were
      pieces that were completely blackened and nobody could make out whether
      there were letters on them," Veleni said.

      The scroll contains a philosophical treatise on a lost poem describing the
      birth of the gods and other beliefs focusing on Orpheus, the mythical
      musician who visited the underworld to reclaim his dead love and enjoyed a
      strong cult following in the ancient world.

      The Orpheus cult raised the notion of a single creator god -- as opposed to
      the multitude of deities the ancient Greeks believed in -- and influenced
      later monotheistic faiths.

      "In a way, it was a precursor of Christianity," Pierris said. "Orphism
      believed that man's salvation depended on his knowledge of the truth."

      Veleni said the manuscript "will help show the influence of Orphism on later
      monotheistic religions."

      The Derveni grave, about five miles northwest of Thessaloniki, was part of a
      rich cemetery belonging to the ancient city of Lete.

      "It belonged to a very rich man, a Macedonian nobleman, warrior and athlete
      who had a lot of very important and valuable artifacts in his grave," Veleni
      said. Finds included metal vases, a gold wreath and weapons.


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      Published by David Sunfellow
      NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE)
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