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This Sefer Torah has been in my family for many generations. From what I am told by my great-uncles, this manuscript could date back several centuries but the work of dating it has never been formally done. Since the death of my grandfather, who brought the sefer from Tunisia where the family had a synagogue it is stored in a synagogue in the Paris suburbs. The sefer is not used for prayer because, according to the rabbis, it is not kosher.

Is it possible based on written layout and style to get an idea of how old is this Sefer Torah? I can provide more pictures if needed.

Edit 1: I added a picture with what seem to be a replaced column, maybe this will help.

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    "Is it possible based on written layout and style to get an idea of how old is this Sefer Torah?" There indeed are expert paleographers who can do this. The general answer is ask them. (As regards this particular example, there's no way this is 15th century. I'd say it's pretty late premodern sefardi. I can send these to a friend of a friend see what he thinks.)
    – Double AA
    Jan 11 at 18:34
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    To add to what DoubleAA wrote, some of the things an expert may look at is how many lines per column, whether certain letters are elongated in order to justify the margins, the form of certain letters etc... all this is analyzed by light of when certain practices are known to have become more or less widespread and/or standardized. Another method would of course be radio-carbon dating. I certainly hope you manage to find someone that can help you with this, because it seems that you have something very precious and special. I pray that all efforts are made to preserve it as best as possible. Jan 11 at 20:36
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    My friend's friend said (just based on the picture without knowing any your family history from Tunisia) that it's unquestionably Tunisian but not too early. Given your story, we can say pretty confidently that it's around 200 +/- years old or so and not brought from Gibraltar.
    – Double AA
    Jan 12 at 13:42
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    @Harel13 It's not obviously pasul (or certainly not obviously enough that someone couldn't touch it up), but anyway an invalid scroll still has sanctity. Carbon dating involves cutting off a piece and burning it (to analyze the ash) which is quite halachichly problematic.
    – Double AA
    Jan 12 at 13:44
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    I would also add, that I don't want you to think I have any particular expertise in this area... these are just some things I've picked up over the years through learning. As always, consulting in person with someone you deem competent is of utmost importance. Jan 12 at 17:00

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I am not a sofer but I have seen various Torah scrolls and own a column of a scroll from Tunisia. In my experience, Tunisian scrolls tend to have a writing style close to Moroccan. The Moroccan writing style typically has thicker block letters than other Sephardic scrolls, AND their Het's look normal/flat and don't look like two zayins put together like most other Sephardic scrolls nowadays.

How to Write Chets in Moroccan Tradition

I would agree with @DoubleAA's comment that this scroll looks like a lot of other more modern Sephardic scrolls, but not specifically from Tunisia. Or if it is from Tunisia, I would date it to be within the past few hundred years as during this time most Sepharadim were transitioning to the pyramid chet of Rabbeinu Tam.

To see examples of other scrolls from Tunisia you can see some on Ebay here: https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p4432023.m570.l1313&_nkw=torah+scroll+tunisia&_sacat=0

I would reach out to a competent sofer who has a history of repairing older Sephardic scrolls so they can help you date it. It's certainly possible that the scroll is from Tunisia, but perhaps the sofer who wrote it was trained by a different tradition than I'm used to seeing if the scroll is as old as your family narrative states.

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  • the Torah pictured above actually does have flat חיתי׳׳ן!
    – moses
    Jan 12 at 0:34
  • It's very inconsistent and the pyramid chet sticks out to me most often. But you're right, it does have flat chet's sometimes, which I believe is the older sephardic custom
    – Aaron
    Jan 12 at 3:49
  • @Aaron If you look at Edit 1, you will see a picture with what seems to be a replaced column
    – JohnJohnGa
    Jan 12 at 9:28
  • Even many moroccans started doing a rabbenu tam chet at some point. See comments on answer that this was identified by an expert as unquestionably tunisian.
    – Double AA
    Jan 12 at 13:45
  • @DoubleAA Most Sepharadim and now even many Yemenites have moved onto the Pyramid Chet of Rebeinu Tam. But in terms of Moroccan and Tunisian Torah scrolls from hundreds of years ago, in my personal non professional experience they have the flat Chets.
    – Aaron
    Jan 12 at 22:29

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