A scholar in Israel has found nine tiny, unopened scrolls among the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to Fox News. It’s not hard to understand why these scrolls were overlooked for six decades: They’re barely the size of a penny.
Dr. Yonatan Adler discovered the new scrolls inside three phylacteries he found in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) storerooms. Phylacteries, also known by their Hebrew term tefillin, are small leather boxes with Scripture passages inside them. Jews bound the boxes to their heads and arms during morning prayers. Adler had the three boxes scanned by a CT machine at a nearby hospital in Israel to check for scrolls.
“Either they didn’t realize that these were also scrolls, or they didn’t know how to open them,” IAA’s head of artifact treatment and conservation Pnina Shor told the Times of Israel.
The scrolls probably won’t lead to major linguistic or historical breakthroughs. Some scholars said the continuity in the scrolls could be their real importance.
Dead Sea Scroll expert Eibert Tigchelaar of the University of Leuven in Belgium told the Times of Israel that the Dead Sea Scrolls in general, and these tiny scrolls in particular, are important because they demonstrate that rabbinic practices had deeper roots.
Around two dozen phylactery scrolls were found with the original discovery of more than 900 religious documents near the Dead Sea in the 1940s and ’50s. The IAA will soon begin the painstaking process of unrolling the newly-discovered scrolls.
“We’re going to do it slowly, but we’ll first consult with all of our experts about how to go about this,” said Schor, who would not reveal when the process would start. “We need to do a lot of research before we start doing this.”
Preserving and maintaining the scrolls will fall to Shor and her team. The Dead Sea Scrolls are treated and stored on acid-free boards in a climate-controlled vault. There is also an ongoing project to digitize the scrolls.
The IAA also announced today it is building a national archaeological center to store its collection of two million artifacts, which would make the largest collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls more accessible to the public. Most of Israel’s state antiquities collection, currently stored in large warehouses that are closed to the public, will be moved to a new 377,000-square-foot center, parts of which will be open to the public.