Mysterious Dead Sea Scroll that was lost to history turns up more than 6,000 miles away in the US after being given as a gift in Jerusalem nearly 60 years ago

  • Dead Sea Scroll thought to have been lost to history has now been rediscovered 
  • The fragment is one of just three papyri to survive from the First Temple Period
  • It was found in US state of Montana, having been received as a gift in Jerusalem
  • Papyrus, estimated to be roughly 2,700 years old, was framed and put on wall

A Dead Sea Scroll that was thought to have been lost to history has now been rediscovered more than 6,000 miles away in the US.

The ancient fragment, estimated to be roughly 2,700 years old, is one of just three papyri to survive from the First Temple Period.

But it was virtually forgotten and might have remained so were it not for the death of Ada Yardeni, a scholar of ancient Hebrew script, in 2018.

Asked to complete her unfinished book, Professor Shmuel Ahituv spotted the fragment in a photo and launched a campaign to track down the missing parchment.

The papyrus was eventually located in the state of Montana, where its owner explained that his mother had received it as a gift while visiting Jerusalem in 1965. 

She had hung the fragment, framed, on her wall.

Unearthed: A Dead Sea Scroll that was thought to have been lost to history has now been rediscovered more than 6,000 miles away in the US

The ancient fragment, estimated to be roughly 2,700 years old, is one of just three papyri to survive from the First Temple Period

Invited to the Holy Land, the current unnamed owner visited the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) lab where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved, and agreed that it should stay there for future conservation.

‘Towards the end of the First Temple period, writing was widespread,’ said Joe Uziel, director of the IAA Judean Desert Scrolls Unit.

‘However, First Temple-period documents written on organic materials – such as this papyrus – have scarcely survived.

‘Whilst we have thousands of scroll fragments dating from the Second Temple period, we have only three documents, including this newly found one, from the First Temple period.

‘Each new document sheds further light on the literacy and the administration of the First Temple period.’

The fragment itself is mysterious because it is made up of just four torn lines beginning with the words ‘to Ishmael send…’ in ancient Hebrew.

It is thought that the full message was a set of instructions to the recipient.

Professor Ahituv, from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, said: ‘The name Ishmael mentioned in the document, was a common name in the biblical period, meaning “God will hear”.

To confirm the document was genuine, it was radiometrically dated at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, revealing its ancient pedigree

Invited to the Holy Land, the current unnamed owner visited the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) lab where the Dead Sea Scrolls are preserved, and agreed that it should stay there for future conservation 

The fragment itself is mysterious because it is made up of just four torn lines beginning with the words ‘to Ishmael send…’ in ancient Hebrew

‘It first appears in the Bible as the name of the son of Abraham and Hagar, and it is subsequently the personal name of several individuals in the Bible.

‘It also appears as the name of officials on paleographic finds such as bullae – clay stamp seals – used for sealing royal documents in the administration of the Kingdom of Judah.’

To confirm the document was genuine, it was radiometrically dated at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, revealing its ancient pedigree.

Experts believe the parchment was probably taken from the same Judean Desert caves where the other Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved for millennia by a dry, stable climate.

Experts believe the parchment was probably taken from the same Judean Desert caves (pictured) where the other Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved for millennia by a dry, stable climate

The fragment was later passed on by Joseph Sa’ad, curator of the Rockefeller Museum, and Halil Iskander Kandu, a well-known antiquities dealer who sold thousands of Dead Sea scroll fragments.

Now the document will be preserved for future generations.

Eitan Klein, from the Theft Prevention Unit of the IAA, said: ‘Returning this document to Israel is part of ongoing efforts to protect and preserve the cultural heritage of the state of Israel.

‘It’s a heritage that belongs to all its citizens, playing a role in the story of the historical heritage of the country and its inhabitants over the centuries.

‘The legal and worthy place for this artefact is in the IAA Dead Sea Scrolls Unit, and we are making every effort to retrieve additional fragmentary scrolls located abroad, and to bring them to Israel.’

The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered between 1946 and 1956 and date back 2,000 years

Discovered between 1946 and 1956, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 ancient manuscripts dating back to 2,000 years ago.

The texts include tends of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments and in rare cases entire manuscripts.  

They contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible as well as a range of extra-biblical documents.

The scrolls were found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea in what was then British Mandate Palestine – now the West Bank.

The story goes that in a cave in the dark crevice of a steep rocky hillside, Muhammed hurled a stone into the dark interior and was startled to hear the sound of breaking pots.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include tends of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments (file photo), contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. They also feature a range of extra-biblical documents

Venturing inside, the young Bedouin found a mysterious collection of large clay jars in which he found old scrolls, some wrapped in linen and blackened with age.

The texts have since been excavated by archaeologists, who are now racing to digitise their contents before they deteriorate beyond legibility.

The texts are of great historical and religious significance and include the earliest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents, as well as preserving evidence of diversity in late Second Temple Judaism.

Dated to between 408BC and 318AD, they are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus and bronze.

The scrolls are traditionally divided into three groups.

‘Biblical’ manuscripts, which are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible comprise 40 per cent of the haul.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea

Source: Read Full Article