Dead Sea Scroll scholar Yonatan Adler, a post-doctoral researcher at Hebrew University, was recently rummaging around in the Israel Antiquities Authority’s climate-controlled storerooms in Jerusalem. As an Orthodox Jew, he immediately recognized a tiny black box as a phylactery case (tefillin) containing Biblical verses from Exodus and Deuteronomy. Phylactery boxes are worn by observant Jewish men on the head and arm during morning prayers. Scanning by MRI confirmed that the customary tiny slips of parchment (one shown above) were still inside the box. As a result of Adler’s discovery, nine similar tefillin slips have been newly identified.

The tefillin case worn on the head contains four compartments, each holding a slip of parchment. The other case contains one scroll and is worn on the arm.

Tefillin slips quote Biblical instructions that these words shall be for a sign upon your head and as a memory (totafot) between your eyes. (See Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8 and 11:18.)