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Biblical Archaeology Review 48:3, Fall 2022

Missing: Have You Seen These Scrolls?

By Årstein JustnesSigne M. Hægeland

It may seem suprising, but 75 years after the discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls, we still don’t know how many scroll fragments there are in total. Published references to the number of recovered fragments vary considerably—from 25,000 to more than 200,000. Even more worrisome, not an insignificant number of those fragments seem to have been lost.

Writing for Jerusalem Report in December 1991, journalist Felice Maranz listed ten large fragments as missing, among them portions of the books of Daniel and Samuel.1 When she questioned John Strugnell and Emanuel Tov—the former and current editors-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls publication project, respectively—neither was keen on discussing the issue.

So what portion of the total number of fragments is now gone? In other words: How considerable a loss is this?

Some 30 years after the alarm was first sounded, our team (the authors and Martin S. Stomnås) set out to look for missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments.2 We use the term “lost” to refer to scroll fragments that are thought to be either destroyed, stolen, misplaced, or simply missing.

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