The Find of the Century

Widely considered the archaeological find of the 20th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls collection is made up of tens of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments belonging to approximately 1000 different texts. The scrolls were written about 2000 years ago and include the oldest known manuscripts of the five books of the Torah. As caretakers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) preserves the scrolls for future generations using the most advanced and innovative technologies available.

The Judean Desert.  Courtesy, the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Judean Desert. Courtesy, the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Conservation

After the scrolls were discovered, in the 1940s and 50s, they were brought to Jerusalem, a drastically different climate than the Judean Desert which had preserved the scrolls for so many centuries. Unfortunately, in the early years following the discovery, the scrolls were unknowingly handled inappropriately. The fragments were pieced together using adhesive tape, then moistened and flattened loosely between plates of window glass. This treatment, in combination with the climate exposure, caused the parchment to darken and deteriorate.

When the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) was created in 1990, one of their first projects was to create a climate-controlled storeroom and laboratory in the Rockefeller Museum building to house the scrolls. The IAA appointed four full-time conservators to preserve the scrolls, a project which continues to be a priority today.

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Each fragment is photographed and mapped. The most time-consuming task is removing the adhesive tape without causing further damage to the scrolls. Conservation also involves cleaning, oil and other stains and reinforcing the back of the scroll wherever necessary. Preserved fragments are then arranged on acid-free cardboard, attached with hinges of Japanese tissue paper and stored in solanders in the climate-controlled storeroom. For exhibition, the fragments are sewn between two layers of polyester net stretched in acid-free mounts and enclosed in a frame of polycarbonate plates.

Courtesy, the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Courtesy, the Israel Antiquities Authority.

These conservation procedures are both lengthy and expensive. Nonetheless, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a universal cultural heritage which must be saved for future generations. To learn how you can support this project by sponsoring a scroll’s conservation, scroll farther down on this page.

Adopt A Scroll

Help the IAA preserve one of the world's greatest manuscript collections by sponsoring the conservation of a scroll. A dedication plaque bearing the donor's name will be permanently displayed next to the scroll when on exhibit, and the name of the sponsor will forever be mentioned in conjunction with the scroll.

Four Dead Sea Scrolls from the IAA’s collection have recently been conserved and preserved with the generous help of the following Friends:

A number of scrolls are in need of immediate conservation, and are available for adoption. Contact Info@friendsofIAA.org to sponsor a scroll.

Digital Library

The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library is a free online digitized virtual library of the Dead Sea Scrolls which uses the most advanced technologies available to image a collection of more than 25,000 fragments.

With the generous lead support of the Leon Levy Foundation and additional generous support of the Arcadia Fund, the IAA and Google joined forces to develop the most advanced imaging and web technologies to bring to the web hundreds of Dead Sea Scrolls images and supporting resources in a user-friendly platform intended for the public, students, and scholars alike. This digital library is another example of the IAA's vision and mission, to make the archaeology and heritage of Israel freely available and accessible to people around the world. The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library represents a new milestone in the annals of the story of one of the greatest manuscript finds of all times.