Courtesy Hanan Eshel

The “cigarette” scroll, so called because of its rolled-up appearance when first found (see photograph), proved to be one of the oldest papyrus documents ever found in the Holy Land. Written in a formal Aramaic script, the scroll has been dated to the middle or late fourth century B.C. Measuring 7 inches long and 2.75 inches wide when unrolled, the scroll has 13 lines of writing on one side and two columns of seven lines each on the other side. The document lists a series of Jewish names and amounts of money—probably loans—on the inside, and the same names with lesser amounts and the word “outstanding”— apparently the amount yet to be repaid—on the outside.

Although some experts believe the Wadi Daliyeh papyri, dated to 335 B.C., are older, the author thinks this scroll may be older. The Persian king Artaxerxes III destroyed Jericho in 343 B.C., so Eshel suggests that some of its residents fled to the caves of Ketef Jericho, bringing with them their important documents, including the “cigarette” scroll.