Biblical Archaeology Review 37:3, May/June 2011

Strata: BAR Puzzler: Which Is the Real Dead Sea Scroll?

One of these pictures shows the genuine Habakkuk Pesher (or commentary), one of the best preserved of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls that were found in the caves above Qumran in 1947. The other shows a modern reproduction of the same scroll. Can you tell which is which?

Before we give away the answer, you should know how (and why) such an exact replica of the Habakkuk Pesher was made—and, no, it’s not an illegal forgery.

A few years ago, a Dead Sea Scroll exhibit was announced for Seoul, South Korea. The organizers had anticipated that the featured scrolls would be loaned from the Israel Museum and the Israel Antiquities Authority. But when their loan request was denied only months before the exhibit’s opening, the organizers had to think of an alternative to displaying the genuine scrolls—and quickly.

With the help of Weston Fields, director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation in Jerusalem, the Korean organizers decided to have exact replicas of three scrolls—the Isaiah Scroll, the Manual of Discipline and the Habakkuk Pesher—made for the exhibit. But who could they possibly get to reproduce museum-quality replicas of the ancient manuscripts?

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