Thursday, May 07, 2009

Israel: Undercover Israeli officers foil attempt to sell ancient papyrus document

China Daily reports Undercover Israeli officers foiled an attempt by two Palestinian men to sell an ancient, valuable papyrus document on the black market, police said Wednesday. The men were arrested at a Jerusalem hotel Tuesday after a sting operation lasting several weeks, police said. The 1,900-year-old Hebrew document, previously unknown and valued at millions of dollars, was rescued, and police showed it to reporters.

It was unclear where the two men obtained it, police and archaeologists said. Similar documents have been found in caves in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, where they have been preserved over the centuries by the dry climate, they said.

The most famous of those are the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient holy books and apocalyptic treatises thought to have been collected by an ascetic Jewish sect two millennia ago.

The document, six inches by six inches (15 centimeters by 15 centimeters), contains 15 lines of Hebrew characters of a type also used in the Dead Sea Scrolls, but is a legal text apparently unrelated to the more famous scrolls.

In this document, a widow named Miriam, daughter of Yaakov, legally transfers property to her late husband's brother, said Amir Ganor, an archaeologist with the government department entrusted with fighting antiquities theft.

Dated to the 2nd century A.D., it is unique because it includes the names of Jewish villages and a date -- "four years from the destruction of the house of Israel." Ganor said that was likely an allusion to a Jewish revolt put down violently by Rome around 135 A.D.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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