What is the first archaeological evidence of Crowns on Letters in a written scroll of Torah?

I took a look at the oldest Torah scrolls and didn't see the crowns until the 12th century.

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/86614/…
    – Harel13
    Jan 7, 2022 at 11:59
  • 4
    Do we have older torah scrolls than the 12th century? The oldest complete torah scroll that I'm aware of does have crowns, see ISBN 978-9004415607 . Sefer Tagi itself most definitely predates the 12th century.
    – Double AA
    Jan 7, 2022 at 13:30
  • 2
    Tagim appear to be on geniza manuscripts from as early as the 7th century CE but in a form different from that of today. Earlier literary sources attest to them being used earlier. See Yardeni's Book of Hebrew Script, p. 210ff.
    – Argon
    Jan 7, 2022 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


I would say it's probably Wadi Sdeir Genesis (WS-1). According to Dr. Drew Longacre in his essay "Reconsidering the Date of the En-Gedi Leviticus Scroll (EGLev): Exploring the Limitations of the Comparative-Typological Paleographic Method", Textus 27 (emphasis and footnotes mine):

"SdeirGenesis (or Sdeir 1) was claimed1 to have been discovered in an unidentified cave in Wadi Sdeir, where it was apparently finally deposited during the Second Jewish War with Rome (132–135 CE).2 It is paleographically attributable to approximately the late first century CE or early second century.3 The script is an elegant, formal hand, written in neat, straight lines hanging well below the ruled guidelines. The straight but soft strokes betray some minimal (inconsistent) differentiation between thick horizontal and thin vertical strokes, and the relatively thick strokes give the script a somewhat heavy appearance. The vertical strokes generally lean to the left and often end in a sharp tip. The scribe makes regular use of additional ornamental elements and subtle serifs."

I am not an expert on tagin or epigraphy, but I've circled here what I believe was referred to by Dr. Longacre as "subtle serifs":

WS-1 with serifs circled

Note that there are two other fragments that can also be viewed in the first link.

Dr. Yosi Baruchi in this essay, pp. 181-182, explains why WS-1 was most likely part of a whole Torah scroll and not a standalone Book of Beresheet.

Side-note: According to Dr. Longacre, there are tagin also in at least one of the Qumran scrolls, the Temple Scroll, as well as in other Bar Kochva scrolls, although these are either not Torah portions or are internally dated (meaning the date is written in the scroll itself) to near the end of the Revolt. Either way, it's interesting that a Torah scroll from around the time of Bar Kochva would feature tagin when considering this tradition about Rabbi Akiva.

1 By the Bedouins who sold it.

2 Also known as "The Bar Kochva Revolt".

3 So at the latest, from the final year of the Revolt (which is typically thought to have ended at 135 CE, but in recent years some scholars have argued that there were still pockets of rebels wandering around Israel in 136, until they were quelled sometime that year (such an argument was made per Chazalic sources by Rabbi Mordechai Hakohen in his essay on Issi ben Yehudah ("תולדות התנא איסי בן יהודה"), which was first published in סיני ל"ד (תשי"ד) and later in his book "אישים ותקופות")), but probably from earlier.

  • Thank you very much. He mentions "regular", which I couldn't spot in the fragment, only sever letters have some kind of glitch, but it is still very impressive.
    – Al Berko
    Jan 9, 2022 at 12:57
  • @AlBerko there's another one in the ץ of ארץ which I missed when I first posted this, but I suppose it also depends on what serif experts term "serifs".
    – Harel13
    Jan 9, 2022 at 12:59
  • Are serifs like this enough to be considered tagin? From what you quote, at least, this connection is not made. Are serifs not found on DSS documents from earlier periods as well?
    – Argon
    Jan 11, 2022 at 3:14
  • @Argon they are. I mentioned that.
    – Harel13
    Jan 11, 2022 at 4:12
  • Then why did you start by saying that the oldest scroll with tagin is "probably Wadi Sdeir Genesis"? The Temple scroll is not among the oldest texts from Qumran—is it the oldest with these serifs?
    – Argon
    Jan 11, 2022 at 5:09

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