World's Oldest Torah Believed Found In Bologna University Library, Scroll Overlooked For Years

05/29/2013 04:16 pm ET | Updated May 30, 2013

The world's oldest complete Torah has been hiding in plain sight for years, gathering dust in an Italian university library until its recent discovery, a professor says.

The priceless holy text was rediscovered by Bologna University professor of Hebrew Mauro Perani, according to The Telegraph.

The over 800-year-old lambskin scroll measures 118 feet long and 25 inches wide, The Telegraph reports, and includes the first five books of the Jewish bible.

While older fragments of Torah have been found, dating even further back to the 7th and 8th centuries, Perani believes this is the oldest complete Torah copy, according to the Los Angeles Times. Its worth could be in the millions.

worlds oldest torah

This is "the oldest complete Torah scroll in the world," Perani told reporters on Tuesday, the Agence France-Presse reports. Perani noted that this type of ancient Torah copy is rare because the scrolls were often buried when they wore out and "lost their holiness." Thousands were also destroyed by the Nazis and Italian Fascists during World War II.

The scroll likely escaped attention for so long because in the late 19th century, the Torah was incorrectly dated to the 17th century by a scholar named Leonello Modona, according to the BBC.

Perani told the Associated Press that he immediately noticed the mistake when he came across the scroll in the Bologna University library this February. The lambskin has since been subjected to two separate carbon-dating tests, both of which have confirmed its age, according to the AP.

"It is fairly big news," James Aiken, a lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament studies at Cambridge University, told the AP. "Hebrew scholars get excited by very small things, but it certainly is important and clearly looks like a very beautiful scroll."

Perani has been trying to locate Hebrew manuscripts in Italy for over two decades, according to Reuters. His work, part of the Italian Genizah project, has so far cataloged close to 13,000 fragments of Jewish texts.

worlds oldest torah

Also on HuffPost:

Badass Women in the Bible

YOU MAY LIKE

CONVERSATIONS