The Mystery of the SILVER SCROLLS -- By: Siegfried Horn

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 00:0 (Autumn 1987)
Article: The Mystery of the SILVER SCROLLS
Author: Siegfried Horn

The Mystery of the SILVER SCROLLS

Siegfried Horn

Dr. Gabriel Barkay conducted three seasons of excavations on the slope of the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, Just north of St. Andrew’s Church in south Jerusalem, between the years 1975 and 1980. During these years he uncovered a large number of ancient tombs from several historical periods. Most of them had been robbed or disturbed long ago. In 1979 he discovered in the course of his work one unspoiled tomb of pre-exilic times (No. 25). This was a truly remarkable find, since tombs of the period of the Hebrew kings have rarely survived without having been entered and robbed of their contents long ago.

This tomb, which from the nature of its contents can be dated to the end of the seventh and the beginning of the sixth centuries BC, (the time of the prophet Jeremiah), was a large family burial place. It contained the skeletal remains of 95 individuals and a repository of about a thousand objects. Among them were 263 complete pottery vessels, 101 pieces of Jewelry, of which six were of gold and 95 of silver, also many carved objects of bone and ivory, 41 arrowheads of iron and bronze, and one small colored glass vessel, an amphoriskos.

However, the most sensational finds were two tiny silver scrolls tightly rolled up. One was about one inch long and less than half an inch thick, the other

only half an inch long and a fifth of an inch thick. The excavators assumed that these scrolls had served as amulets and contained inscriptions. For this reason, they were anxious to see them unrolled.

Because of the difficulties involved in unrolling such extremely thin 2,500 year old scrolls of corroded silver sheets, it was thought best to send them to the University of Leeds in Britain, where some of the most experienced restorers of ancient artifacts and metal experts were available for such delicate work. However, the British experts felt that the danger of destroying the scrolls in the process of unrolling was too great to attempt this work. Therefore they declined to attempt the unrolling and returned the scrolls to Israel. The same disappointment was experienced when the scrolls were sent to Germany for unrolling.

The result was that the Israeli technicians in the laboratories of the Israel Museum were forced to attempt to do the job themselves. After many difficulties they developed a special method that enabled them to unroll the two tiny silver sheets with success. After the scrolls had been unrolled and cleaned, they confirmed the expectations of the excavators — they did indeed contain written texts!

And what were the contents of the texts? It was the priestly benediction found in the S...

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