The Israel Antiquities Authority yesterday (Tuesday) moved an impressive scroll fragment, which was found in the Judean Desert caves, for display to the President’s Conference in Jerusalem.
Since the scrolls are part of Jewish cultural heritage, as well as that of the entire world, the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is the curator and conservator of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Israel, considers it important that the scrolls be shown to the public in general and the conference attendees in particular. This is being done while meticulously protecting the scrolls and maintaining the conditions in which they are displayed. The Israel Antiquities Authority has many years of experience in handling and transporting the scroll exhibitions in the world and it does so from time to time while carefully preserving the conditions required in order to safeguard them for future generations.

The fragment of the scroll that is on display at the presidential conference, was found in Cave 11 in the Judean Desert, and is a part of one of the longer texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, dated to 30-50 CE. This impressive scroll is a liturgical collection of psalms and hymns, in a non-canonical sequence and with variations on the canonical psalms. The scroll contains twenty eight incomplete columns of text, five of which are represented here including the text of psalms 133, 137, 138, 141, 144 and two non-canonical psalms. Psalm 133 opens with the famous phrase: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”.

Picture Attached: A fragment of the Tehilim scroll that will be presented in the President’s Conference. Photographed by Tsila Sagiv, IAA

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls some sixty years ago is considered to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries in modern times. The scrolls were written or copied in the Land of Israel between 250 BCE and 68 CE, and were rediscovered in 1947 in the Judean Desert. The scrolls represent the oldest written record of the Old Testament, and contain the earliest copies of every book of the Bible, except for the Book of Esther. This “Ancient Library" sheds insight into centuries pivotal to both Judaism and Christianity. Thanks to these remarkable finds, our knowledge of the people in the Land of Israel as well as the origins of Judaism and early Christianity has been greatly enriched.

Work on the unpublished texts, consisting of thousands of fragments, was monopolized for thirty-five years by a group of just ten scholars, all great experts in their respective fields. Inevitably, the limited size of the team prevented the speedy publication of the manuscripts. In the early 1990’s major steps were taken by the Israel Antiquities Authority to reorganize the publication efforts. The publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls in their entirety was completed in 2001. These important texts are now accessible to all and can be studied by scholars and the public alike.

The conservation, preservation and documentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls have concerned both scholars and conservators ever since their discovery. The removal of the fragile scrolls from the caves in which they had been preserved for over 2,000 years interrupted the environmental stability that had ensured their preservation for so long. Since their discovery, the scrolls were damaged by the ravages of time, as well as previous handling and treatment. In 1991 the Israel Antiquities Authority, advised by the leading experts on issues relating to the conservation of manuscripts, parchment and papyrus, established a conservation laboratory dedicated solely to the Dead Sea Scrolls. The task of conservation and preservation of the scrolls continues to be an ongoing project due to their extreme brittleness and the need to make use of the most up-to-date conservation methods known worldwide. Currently, the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with international experts has decided to re-evaluate the conservation techniques used at present, and to determine processes for issues still unresolved. Moreover, as part of our conservation efforts the IAA has initiated a digitization project that will enable us to monitor the well being of the scrolls in a non invasive and precise manner. Digitizing the scrolls and making their images widely available continue the efforts of the IAA in expanding access to the scrolls to scholars and the public around the world.