Torah scroll, circa 1155−1225. Sheepskin, Bologna University. AP Photo/Alma Mater Studiorium, Bologna University, Italy.
In 2013 Mauro Perani, a professor of Hebrew at the University of Bologna, found something interesting in his university’s library. During a routine catalogue update, Perani realized that a Torah scroll that had been mistakenly dated to the 17th century was actually about five hundred years older, likely from the late 12th century. Two independent carbon-dating tests were performed and confirmed the revised date. The scroll is about 40 yards long and contains the oldest known complete Torah scroll of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible). Torah scrolls like this one were displayed in synagogues on the Sabbath and holidays to be read aloud to the congregation.