Category Archives: Dead Sea Scrolls

The Copper Scroll

There’s a neat little article on the topic today over at The Ancient Near East Today.  Give it a read.

Happening Now

The online symposium on the Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible.  It’s several hours long, so there’s still time to jump in.

Recently, scholarship has turned to the connections between material aspects of scrolls production on the one hand, and the production, redaction, and transmission of ancient texts on the other. One example in the field of biblical studies is the article by David Carr entitled “Rethinking the Materiality of Biblical Texts: From Source, Tradition and Redaction to a Scroll Approach” (ZAW 132/2020). This symposium will offer an exploratory conversation on the opportunities (and possible pitfalls) of enriching the study of the Hebrew Bible through more focused attention on ancient practices of creating and using scrolls. The interconnection of relatively recent theoretical movements (e.g., New Philology, sociological study of bibliography and New Materialism) and continuing analysis and collection of material evidence from ancient scrolls (especially from Egypt and the Dead Sea Caves) offers an opportunity to add precision to models for the formation and reception of (what would become) biblical texts by attending to practices surrounding their likely original material form—as parts of scrolls. Though pioneers in pursuing a ‘scroll approach’ were confined to limited descriptions from the Bible and later rabbinic literature, we now have a wealth of information from actual ancient scrolls and scribal practices from Egypt, Levantine sites like Deir ʿAlla, and especially the Judaean Desert (Qumran and other sites).

Scripta Qumranica Electronica

By combining two major databases (the digital images of all known Qumran fragments at the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, IAA, Jerusalem, and the textual and linguistic data for all texts included in the Qumran­wörter­buch, Qumran Dictionary, at Göttingen Academy), SQE brings together scholars of the Scrolls and AI as well as database specialists on the one hand, as well as a broader public on the other hand. The highly customized and cutting-edge tools will enable scholars and students of the Scrolls (and more than 25.000 fragments) deeper insights than previously thought possible.

Check it out.  The site will go live and all its materials accessible for all around the time SBL meets in November.  For now, it’s information on the project only.

Joseph Lauer’s Roundup of Sources For the Latest Dead Sea Scroll Discovery

For the moment the ghosts of Moses Shapira and his Deuteronomy Fragment have been pushed to the sidelines as this morning, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the IAA circulated English and Hebrew press releases over its insignia and those of other agencies. The release, titled “Thrilling finds have been uncovered by a challenging Israel Antiquities Authority operation in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve,” announced that “The finds include dozens of fragments of a biblical scroll from the Bar Kokhba period, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child and the oldest complete basket in the world” and “For the first time in approximately 60 years, archaeological excavations have uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll. The scroll, which is written in Greek, includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum.”

The English release is attached hereto and I can forward the Hebrew release to any interested reader. The English release (titled “New scroll fragments uncovered in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve”) may also be read at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs site at See also [Hebrew]

As noted in the release, 47 high resolution pictures and three videos may be downloaded at the place in the release stating “Click here to download photos and video clip:” (The credits that should be noted if the items are used are also in the attached release.)

The pictures may also be accessed at or

The finds have received media attention, including at the following sites, and more will surely appear.

Among the Hebrew articles are:

Ha’aretz has taken advantage of the discoveries to publish three online Premium articles:

Scientific Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Via Michael Langlois-

Welcome to a virtual workshop on Scientific Imaging of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Monday, 22 February)! Registration is mandatory and is due 18 February 2021 through the following link:

Why are The Dead Sea Scrolls so Sensational?

This lecture took place at the University College, London.  And it was given by James Charlesworth.  It was, all in all, a very enjoyable lecture, although it adhered to a fairly conservative interpretation of the site (i.e., scriptorium, Essenes, etc.).

Zoom Lecture by James Charlesworth on the Dead Sea Scrolls

Via Joseph Lauer-

Why are the Dead Sea Scrolls so Sensational?
by Institute of Jewish Studies UCL

Lecture explaining why scholars concur that the recovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the most sensational discovery of ancient writings.

Date And Time: Thursday, 14 January 2021, 13:00 – 14:00 EST


About this Event: Since the early 1960s, Professor James Charlesworth has focused his research on the scrolls found in eleven caves on the western shores of the Dead Sea: The Dead Sea Scrolls. In this lecture, Charlesworth seeks to explain why scholars concur that the recovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is the most sensational discovery of ancient writings. Throughout the world the perspective on Early Judaism and the Origins of Christianity have received a paradigm shift. Why? It is because of the startling and unexpected thoughts found in these scrolls that take us back to a time in the Holy Land from 200 BCE to 67 CE. How and in what ways, if at all, were John the Baptizer and Jesus from Nazareth influenced by the unique symbolic language in these scrolls?

You will receive the link to the event content in your order confirmation email, and in a reminder email before the event starts. Sign up here-

To Loot Or Not To Loot, in Helsinki, 10 Nov 2020

The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most important archaeological discoveries related to the Bible. But the (hi)story of their discovery by Bedouin, in the mid-twentieth century, is problematic and raises doubts as to their authenticity and provenance. Likewise, new manuscripts that surface on the antiquities market are dubious, and scholars have suggested that they should be ignored as they are unprovenanced, lest we become complicit in looting in trafficking. In this paper, I propose to go back to the early years of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship in order to better understand if, how and why these scrolls were uncritically accepted. This, in turn, will help us figure out sound guidelines for handling and publishing such artefacts.

News from ‘The Lying Pen of Scribes’

Important message from Nils Korsvoll at UiA:

We would like to invite you all to tomorrow’s online Brown Bag Lunch seminar, 11.30 – 12:30, with the research group Claimed Pasts. We will be joined by Dana Ryan Lande, Postdoctoral Fellow, MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society (, who will introduce the topic: Media History, Narrative Unreliability, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Ethics of Provenance (Under-)Reporting.

The talk and discussion will be in English.

The lunch will be through Zoom, and please write and sign up at:

All the best,
Claimed Pasts

Dead Sea Scrolls Conference at Leuven

Comment les chercheurs déchiffrent les textes anciens : Interview pour l’Express

The latest from Michael Langlois, the world’s foremost living authority on things Dead Sea Scrolls related.

If You Missed Larry Schiffman’s Lecture on the Scrolls, It’s Online

Here.   The page will look empty until you push the ‘play’ button and then it will roll.  It, again, was a fantastically enjoyable lecture.

It’s just over an hour.  You can also download it.

Larry Schiffman’s Zoom on the Scrolls

Was a delight!  It was recorded, so if you contact the library which hosted the event, they may share it with you. Here are some screen grabs I captured during:

Michael Langlois Interviewed about the Scrolls


Je réponds aux questions du magazine Science & Vie sur les manuscrits de la mer Morte contrefaits.

La nouvelle de manuscrits de la mer Morte contrefaits parmi les collections du Musée de la Bible à Washington est arrivée en France. Le journaliste Thomas Cavaillé-Fol a écrit un article à ce sujet ; j’ai répondu à ses questions, d’autant que j’avais déjà évoqué ces contrefaçons avec lui en 2017.

Vous pouvez retrouver son article ici.

Enjoy! (As the kids say).

Larry Schiffman Public Zoom Lecture on the Scrolls

Joe Lauer writes

Dr. Jim Davila noted the following ZOOM online Lecture “Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls” to be given by Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Thursday, July 16, 2020, 11:00 AM-12:15 PM EDT. Registration is required (see below). See “Schiffman lecture on the DSS” at

Prof. Schiffman’s website has the following at


Thursday July 16, 2020
11:00 AM until 12:15 PM

This Zoom program will focus on how the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls shed light on the history of Judaism and early Christianity. Registration required. An email with Zoom login details will be sent prior to the start of the program. Hosted by the Peninsula Public Library. The Peninsula Public Library’s site for the lecture is at where one can send e-mail notices of it to others. Its calendar of events is at where there is a link for registration. The registration form is at

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Public Conference

Via Joseph Lauer

Please join us for a 4-day virtual conference “The Dead Sea Scrolls in Recent Scholarship.” This event is free to join and open to the public. The full program schedule is listed below. Please note the following:

  • – Follow the link accompanying each day’s schedule to register. 
  • – You must register individually for each day you wish to attend. 
  • – An email with instructions on joining will automatically be sent to you once you register. 
  • – You do not have to attend the entire day that you register for, but are welcome to come and go for particular sessions or lectures. 

Please reach out to us at for any questions about the schedule or registration process.

See the link above for more.

The Latest from Michael Langlois

Right here.  Take a break from the plague and give it a read.

Larry Schiffman on Zoom: “Old Leather, New Ink: Forgery and the Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Mark your calendars!  Via Joseph Lauer

9 PM EDT on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 – an online lecture on ZOOM by Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman, titled “Old Leather, New Ink: Forgery and the Dead Sea Scrolls.”   The link is

The Museum of the Bible’s ‘Dead Sea Scrolls Symposium’ is On YouTube

Via Joseph Lauer.

Sidnie White Crawford: Lecture at the Museum of the Bible on the Faked Dead Sea Scrolls

With thanks to Sidnie for permission to post her remarks in full:

Museum of the Bible Dead Sea Scrolls Panel
March 13, 2020

Sidnie White Crawford

I would like to begin by congratulating the Museum of the Bible for undertaking this thorough scientific study of their purported Dead Sea Scrolls fragments and for being forthright about its conclusions. This action is a great help in the fight by archaeologists and other professionals to combat traffic in illegal antiquities. I would also like to congratulate Kipp Davis and his colleagues for being the first to sound the alarm concerning the possibility that the MOTB fragments were forgeries. However, I would also like to extend my sympathies to the MOTB and all the other institutions who were taken in by unscrupulous antiquities dealers. Finally, I would like to thank Mike Holmes for the invitation to speak on this panel.

My remarks this afternoon will have two parts. First, I will address the history of the discovery and purchase of the Dead Sea Scrolls and why scholars in the field gave credence to the claim that the post-2002 fragments were genuine. Second, I will address the findings of the report and why I found its conclusions convincing.

The history of the discovery of the scrolls beginning in the late 1940s is well-known and does not need to be repeated. It might be helpful, however, to recall how the majority of them came into the possession of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (the PAM), now the Rockefeller Museum. Beginning in 1950, the authorities of the PAM began to purchase scroll fragments from their Bedouin looters for a fixed price. The middleman for these purchases was usually Khalil Iskander Shahin, known as Kando, an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, although some purchases were made directly from the Bedouin. The record of purchases was kept in a handwritten ledger dated between May 6, 1950 and April 8, 1957, now in the Rockefeller archives. The fragments purchased come from Qumran caves 1, 2, 4, and 11, Wadi Murabba’at, Khirbet Mird, Wadi Seiyal, and “unknown caves.” While this arrangement guaranteed that the bulk of the scroll finds did end up in the hands of the authorities, shortages of funds often meant delays in purchases, and the possibility always existed that fragments would be held back or sold elsewhere.

In fact, we know that scroll finds were held back by Kando in the hope of fetching higher prices. In the case of the Cave 4Q fragments, Kando evidently held back better pieces until the end. According to Frank Moore Cross, “The best fragments, both in size and preservation, were saved until last” (Shanks, 128). Cross also told of his midnight encounter with Kando in the spring of 1967, in the souk of Beirut, where Kando showed him “several boxes of fragments” (Shanks, 136) and told him about the Temple Scroll. The Temple Scroll, of course, was recovered from Kando by Yigael Yadin in the wake of the Six-Day War in June of 1967. So it was well-known among the first generation of scroll scholars that not all the material looted by the Bedouin wound up in the hands of the authorities.

Other scrolls fragments known to scholars “disappeared” under mysterious circumstances. The paleo-Leviticus scroll from Cave 11Q was published in 1985 by David Noel Freedman and K. A. Mathews. Included in that publication was a photograph of “Fragment L,” which Freedman and Matthews state “is in the possession of Professor Georges Roux of France” (ix). It was subsequently purchased from the Kando family by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. How this fragment moved from the possession of Professor Roux (back) to the Kando family is unclear, but there is no doubt that it is a genuine Cave 11Q fragment.

Another fragment that “went walkabout” is fragment 6 of 4QSamb, a photograph of which is published in DJD 17 (plate XXIV). According to Cross, this large and well-preserved fragment “disappeared” from the Rockefeller Museum in 1967 and is probably in the hands of a private collector.

The point of these stories is to say that prior to the early 21st century it was known that there were genuine scroll fragments out there, either in the possession of the Kando family or private collectors. Therefore, when “Dead Sea Scroll fragments” began to surface on the antiquities market in the 1990s, it was not unreasonable to assume that they could be genuine. And in fact some, like the paleo-Leviticus fragment now in the hands of Southwestern Baptist, are genuine. But unfortunately it seems clear now that the greed of antiquities dealers combined with the willingness of collectors to pay inflated prices led to the sorry situation in which we find ourselves, with many forgeries and all post-2002 fragments cast into doubt. It is thus very important to have a clear picture of the provenience of scroll fragments. “Provenience” refers to the chain of possession of scroll fragments, which can help to authenticate them. For example, a fragment of 1QSb was purchased by Martin Schøyen from the widow of William Brownlee, one of the two scholars resident at the American School in Jerusalem (now the Albright Institute) when the Cave 1Q manuscripts purchased by Mar Athanasius Samuel were brought there in 1948. Brownlee had received the fragment from Mar Samuel and it had remained in his possession ever since. Here the provenience of the scroll fragment is clear. Unfortunately, the provenience of many of the supposed Dead Sea Scroll fragments purchased from the antiquities market, including the MOTB fragments, is very unclear, which from the beginning led some scholars to question their authenticity.

These doubts, coupled with the work of Kipp Davis, led the MOTB to undertake the extraordinary and laudable scientific study of their fragments. I will now turn to the results of this study, concentrating on the aspect of the report on which I feel most qualified to speak, the section on the substrate of the fragments, that is, the medium on which the writing was made.

Let me first speak about the Qumran scroll manuscripts discovered in the 1940s and 50s. As a member of the editorial team responsible for editing and publishing the edition princeps of the Qumran scrolls in the DJD series, I spent literally hundreds of hours working with scroll fragments. As a result, I got to know the medium on which they were written “up close and personal.” The medium on which the Qumran scrolls were written was either animal skin or papyrus. The papyrus was the common type of the Roman Empire, probably purchased in commercial rolls from Egypt. The animal skins, the majority of which were sheep, goats, or bovine, were carefully prepared for writing by the process described in the report for creating parchment. Where this parchment was made we do not know, although it was almost certainly a local Judean production. The parchment skins were cut into uniform pieces, called sheets; the size of the sheets depended on the length of the work to be copied. At Qumran, the length of sheets varied between 21 and 90 cm., while their height also varied; the largest was approximately 30 cm.

Once the sheets were cut they were ruled for columns with a sharp instrument, producing horizontal and vertical dry lines. The writing was precisely hung from the horizontal lines, and the vertical lines, especially on the right-hand side, were carefully adhered to. Writing was normally done on the hair side of the skin, although on the Temple Scroll the writing is on the flesh side. Finally, and this is very important, when the writing surface was uneven, the scribes left the poor patches uninscribed. This phenomenon can be clearly seen, for example, on 4QDeutn. In sum, the Qumran writing medium was professionally produced and carefully prepared parchment, even when scraps of parchment were utilized for writing (e.g. 4QExercitium Calami C, a scribal exercise). Any damage visible now on the scroll fragments occurred during their lengthy sojourn in the caves.

To turn to the report, it finds that the MOTB fragments were written on leather rather than parchment. Leather, as opposed to parchment according to the report, is characterized by being thick and uneven, with a pronounced grain and a spongy texture. Leather, of course, was well-known in the ancient world where it had many uses, footgear among them. It would be easy for forgers to obtain pieces of ancient leather, which is why DNA testing is not helpful in determining forgeries. However, leather never appears as a writing medium at Qumran, even for informal writing. Scraps of parchment or potsherds were utilized for that purpose. Thus, the use of leather as a writing medium indicates that these fragments are not genuine Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

Next, while dry lines appear somewhat haphazardly on the MOTB fragments, they are not carefully utilized as a writing guide, as we see on genuine fragments. As the report states on p. 13, “this artificial ruling was carelessly executed…and the writing rarely follows the lines.” This is further compelling evidence that the fragments are not genuine.

Third, the application of the ink (the actual writing) simply was applied to the substrate regardless of its condition. Ink goes across and into cracks, is uneven depending on the grain of the leather, is applied to delaminated surfaces, and lies on top of mineral deposits rather than below them. Let me address each one of these finding separately.

As I mentioned above, the Qumran scribes did not write on cracked, wrinkled, or broken surfaces. Therefore, where there are cracks or other injuries to genuine fragments, the letters are also cracked, wrinkled, or broken, because the injuries occurred after the manuscript was inscribed. Writing was not applied to an already damaged surface. Second, on genuine fragments ink is never found on delaminated surfaces. If the surface of a fragment is peeled away, the ink is peeled away with it. Third, the parchment used for Qumran scrolls was fresh and clean. Mineral deposits found on the fragments were the result of the scrolls’ storage in the caves and the accumulation of animal droppings and other natural hazards. They were found on top of the ink and not underneath it. The fact that all of these anomalies are found on the MOTB fragments is clear physical evidence that they are not genuine ancient fragments. In other words, regrettably they are modern forgeries.

The scientific tests applied to the MOTB fragments demonstrate decisively that they are modern forgeries. The question then becomes, who is the forger(s), and where does he or she operate? We may never know. The lesson that I think we need to take away from this episode is the old one of caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware.” As long as there are people willing to buy antiquities, forgers will produce them for the market. If the market dried up, forgers would be put out of business. The protocols concerning antiquities and their provenance and provenience put in place by professional organizations such as the Archaeological Institute of America, the American Schools of Oriental Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature should be followed by all institutions and publishers. I commend the MOTB for putting such protocols into place, and thank them for this fascinating opportunity to study this report and comment on it.