03 June 2011

The Mystery of the Copper Scroll

Among all the Scrolls found in Qumran, more than 900 documents,  there is an anomaly, and unique scroll, different from all the others. It is made from different materials, the language in which it is written is not the same as the rest of the scrolls and even its content, is not related to all the other texts.  Professor Richard Freund said this is  "probably the most unique, the most important, and the least understood among all the Scrolls” . For this, it deserves a separate post!  
This is the Copper Scroll!
We have already said that the majority of the Scrolls was found by Bedouins. The copper scroll instead was discovered by an expedition sponsored by the Jordan Department of Antiquities. It is March 14th , 1952, when an archaeologist,  exploring Cave 3 at Qumran, found 15 new scrolls. The last one discovered that day, struck the attention of the archaeologist. In fact while all the others were made of parchment or papyrus, this scroll was written on metal: copper.

The discovery
When it was found, it was in two parts. Apparently when the scroll was being rolled up, the thin copper sheet snapped into two sections. After almost two-thousand years in the cave, the document was so badly oxidized that it would crumble if anyone attempted to open it. It was immediately clear that the corroded metal could not be unrolled by conventional means. Even while it was still wound up, though, it became apparent to scholars studying, what little text could be seen, that the scroll was hiding a sensational discovery: a list of treasures!
A 2000 years old treasure map was in the hands of scholars and archaeologists but they couldn’t open it without the risk of breaking the scroll and lose the document! What seemed to be an Indiana Jones movie adventure, was instead the real problem of scholar John Marco Allegro. After 5 years of discussions and debates on which method to use in order to preserve the manuscript from harm,  finally Allegro sent the Copper Scroll to  Manchester College of Technology in England  where Professor H. Wright Baker decided to cut the document into 23 strips.
 Allegro supervised the opening of the scroll and transcribed its contents immediately.

The Language
The first difference to be noticed was the language: different from other scrolls, but more similar to the Mishnaic Hebrew than the usual Hebrew. The orthography, with  an unusual style of writing was also not common, probably due to the fact that the author was writing  on the copper using a hammer and chisels. There is also the anomaly that seven of the location names are followed by a group of two or three Greek letters. Scholars have connected this particularity of the Scroll with Greek inventory, using similar “cataloguing” methods at the Greek Temple of Apollo. This similarity to the Greek inventories, would suggest that this scroll is in fact an authentic "temple inventory."
The translation of the scroll has been really difficult and it is still open to many interpretations.  This connection to the Greek world, and several anomalies in the writing, suggested that maybe the author of the copper roll was an  illiterate scribe who did not speak the language in which the scroll was written, or at least was not well familiar with. We can assume that the writer was recreating another copy of the scroll.  As Professor Milik said:  “The scribe uses the forms and ligature of the cursive script along with formal letters, and often confuses graphically several letters of the formal hand." As a result, the full meaning of the text is still a mystery.

The Contents
“In the fortress which is in the Vale of Achor, forty cubits under the steps entering to the east: a money chest and it […] contents, of a weight of seventeen talents."
Who could resist to the tentation to live everything and go in search of the lost treasure after reading a sentence like this one, in an 2000 years old scroll?
The document is fascinating, and it is composed of 64 bullets, each pointing to a location where the treasure might be located.
The following is an English translation of other texts:
In the court of [unreadable], nine cubits under the southern corner: gold and silver vessels for tithe, sprinkling basins, cups, sacrificial bowls, libations vessels; in all, six hundred and nine.
In the cave that is next to [unreadable] belonging to the House of Hakkoz, dig six cubits. There are six bars of gold.
Some of the places mentioned in the scroll are easy to locate in  a modern map: Jericho, the valley of Achor and Mt Gerizim still exist and the treasure described consists of vast quantities of gold and silver, as well as many coins and vessels. It is difficult to assess the value of what is described, since we are not sure what the weights in the scroll are actually equivalent to, but it was estimated in 1960 that the total would top $1,000,000 U.S.
Before you decide to send a resignation mail to your boss, and to buy a ticket for the middle east playing the explorer, I have to tell you that many of the hiding place don’t exist anymore or are very difficult to locate. The Salomon Canal, the well of Milham and Matia’s courtyard are hiding gold garments and treasures but there is no idea where they could be.  

The last sentence  
On the Internet  the mystery and the charm of the Copper scroll is amplified in many web pages and sites. One particularly interesting website  is the Copper Scroll web Project, where you can find more information, newsletters and articles about this copper treasure map.
The last sentence of the Copper Scroll is legendary.
“In a dry well at Kohlit… a copy of this document with its explanation … and an inventory of each and everything”
There is another Scroll, lost somewhere, that can explain the Copper one and provide more information about the immense treasure described on it.
Who wants to be the new Indiana Jones?

The Mysterious treasure of the Copper Scroll, The Unmuseum, viewed 1 Jun 2011,
Copper Scroll Project Jerusalem Post Article, The Copper Scroll Project, viewed 1 Jun 2011,
Copper Scroll, West Semitic Research Project, viewed 2 Jun 2011,
aboumyriam2000, 2008, The Mystery of the Copper Scroll, viewed 3 Jun 2011,
Kohn Levitt, R 2008, Ancient copper scroll: wild goose chase or golden ticket?,  San Diego Natura History Museum, viewed 2 Jun 2011,
Frequently Asked Question, The Orion Center for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls,  viewed 3 Jun 2011,
John Marco Allegro, Wikipedia, viewed 3 Jun 2011, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Marco_Allegro>
25 fascinating facts Dead sea scrolls, CenturyOne BookStore, viewed 2 Jun 2011. <http://www.centuryone.com/25dssfacts.html>
‘Copper Scroll’ [image] San Diego Jewish World, viewed 3 Jun 2011,
‘Copper Scroll’ [image] The Dead Sea Scrolls controversy in San Diego, viewed 3 Jun 2011,
‘The Scroll Cut’ [image] The Copper Scroll Project,  viewed 3 Jun 2011,

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