Courtesy Hanan Eshel

Expertise and a steady hand are required for this task. Wielding a delicate brush, Marina Rossovsky of the Israel Museum Laboratories unfolds a brittle papyrus. Two alert volunteers found this 4-by-4-inch papyrus—the first of several bearing writing—on the third day of the excavation. Written in a very cursive form of Aramaic, the Semitic vernacular used at this time, the papyrus was difficult to decipher.