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To see all the Dead Sea Scrolls (800 documents, some only fragments) you'd need a round-the-world ticket and a set of magic keys. The main public collection, which includes the Temple Scroll (above, being studied by archaeologist Yigael Yadin), is in Jerusalem; the Copper Scroll is in Amman's Archaeological Museum; and other scrolls are in France, the US and in scattered private collections. Manchester University has 100 uninscribed fragments.

So The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls By Philip R Davies, George J Brooke and Phillip R Callaway (Thames amp; Hudson pound;24.95), the first fully illustrated survey of the documents, is as close as you're likely to get to a first-hand inspection.

Since the discovery of the first scroll by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947, their translation and significance for early Christianity and Judaism have been at the centre of controversy. Three Scrolls scholars have pooled their insights on the Scrolls' authorship and historical and religious background and the excavation of the ancient Dead Sea settlement of Qumran, where they originated.


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