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Dead Sea Scrolls sold

Dead Sea Scrolls Being Sold off to Private Buyers

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A family who owns pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been causing uproar amongst archaeologists and academics for selling off postage stamp sized fragments of the ancient documents to private buyers in the international antiquities market.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a set of approximately 930 manuscripts – 750 in Hebrew, 150 in Aramaic and a small number in Greek – written on animal-skin parchments which contain some of the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and are said to be the greatest archaeological find in history.  The scrolls have been dated from the late third century BC to the first century AD and were discovered near the site of Qumran, south of Jericho in the years 1947-1956

The ancient and priceless texts have been dubbed "the academic scandal of the 20th century" because of the long delay in publication, which many have claimed is due to the controversial nature of its contents. The manuscripts shed unprecedented light on Judaism around the turn of the era, at the time when Christianity was born, and some of the contents conflict with the accounts contained in the New Testament.

It was believed that, after many decades of wrangling over the publication of the texts, that the whole library was now available to researchers and to the public.  However, news that the Kando family has kept portions of the scrolls in safe-deposit boxes in Switzerland and has been selling fragments, has surprised many researchers who were unaware that there were still portions of the manuscript available.  It has also outraged Israeli government officials, who maintain the scrolls are cultural property of Israel.

"I told Kando many years ago, as far as I'm concerned, he can die with those scrolls," Amir Ganor, head of the Israeli antiquities anti-looting division said. "The scrolls' only address is the State of Israel."

Some experts believe more ancient documents may be unearthed in the many caves in the Dead Sea area. "I would not at all be surprised if more material were to be found," Lenny Wolfe, a Jerusalem manuscripts dealer, has said.

By April Holloway

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