Garo Nalbandian

Clues to buried treasure? A unique Dead Sea Scroll in almost every way—material, script, language and content—the Copper Scroll, found in Qumran Cave 3 by archaeologists in 1952, consisted of two rolled strips of unusually pure copper. Originally the two rolls formed one scroll about 8 feet long and 11 inches wide. Impossible to unroll, the scroll was sawed into half-cylinder strips like the one shown here. The text enumerates 64 hiding places of treasure, mostly silver and gold, estimated to total between 58 and 174 tons. Although some scholars have said the treasure is imaginary, today most scholars believe the scroll was intended as a guide to real buried treasure.

The text is written in Hebrew closer to that of the Mishnah, the rabbinic law code compiled about 200 C.E., than the other scrolls. Its script seems later than the other scrolls, which date between 250 B.C.E. and 68 C.E. Scroll scholar Manfred Lehmann contends that the Copper Scroll dates to after the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. He identifies in the text various kinds of offerings, known from Jewish law, indicating that the hidden treasure represented Jewish Temple contributions that continued despite the Temple’s destruction.