Traders of the Lost Scrolls (1997) - full transcript

(mellow techno music)

(reel whirring)

- [Narrator] 1947, a
hoard of ancient documents

is discovered in caves on
the shores of the Dead Sea.

Scrolls dating back 2,000
years that will come

to be recognized as
among the most important

archeological finds of the 20th Century.

But before their true value is realized,

they pass through the hands of Bedouin,

traders, scholars, and collectors.

Some traveling as far
as the United States.

- [Announcer] Archbishop
Athanasius Samuel,

metropolitan of Jerusalem,
opens the letter scrolls

of the 2000 year old biblical texts.

A 1000 years older than
any previously known.

- [Narrator] 50 years
later, despite every attempt

to bring all the scrolls to light.

Rumors persisted there are more out there.

Adding to the mystery and controversy

that surrounded these writings
for the last five decades.

For those who deal in Dead
Sea scrolls who deal with

the secrets they hold, the
story is far from over.

(dramatic music)

(indistinct radio chatter)

- [Radio Host] Jersey city 65
(indistinct radio chatter)

(relaxed jazz music)

- [Narrator] Princeton,
New Jersey site of one

of America's prestigious
Ivy league colleges.

This is home to professor
James Charlesworth

An academic who has become
a manuscript detective.

He has brought to light over
4,000 ancient documents so far.

James Charlesworth is also an

expert on the Dead Sea scrolls.

As head of Princeton's
Dead Sea scroll project.

He's examined many of
the recovered manuscripts

and thousands of
individuals scroll fragments

but he's convinced that
there's more to this story.

As the picture isn't yet revealed.

- I do not believe the greatest
discovery has yet been made.

We haven't got all of the scrolls.

We haven't translated all of them.

There are literally dozens of scrolls

that we haven't yet been
able to piece together.

What do they have to tell us?

Now, remember when you're putting together

a giant jigsaw puzzle and
that's what we're doing,

trying to reconstruct the past.

When does that piece fit,
which all of a sudden

you have the picture.
(car door closes)

- [Narrator] For professor
James Charlesworth,

the search for scrolls is more
than a job, it's a passion.

- [James] I thought we would start

with the question, what
are the Dead Sea scrolls?

- [Narrator] But he's equally
committed to interpreting

scrolls already discovered.
- The Dead Sea scrolls

are 2000 years old, not
only biblical scrolls

but also previously unknown documents.

They're coming from the dark ages

in the history of Western culture.

A historical gap of over 200 years.

Jesus, he lived exactly
in this period of silence

and his boy, how did
our culture take shape?

Whether were talking about
our culture, Western culture.

We talking about Judaism or
we talking about Christianity.

We're talking about the same thing.

How did all this stuff get started?

- [Narrator] For Charlesworth
the Dead Sea scrolls

may hold the key.
- [James] Hey John.

- [Narrator] And the
answers could throw doubt

on beliefs held over many centuries.

- How's the alignment, can
you get the sheens in line so?

- The alignment is going really well

all the final corrections-
- [Narrator] At Princeton,

Charlesworth works on
scrolls weighing the evidence

and publishing his conclusions.

But he also inhabits another world.

The Twilight world of scroll trading.

For if there are more scrolls out there

and Charlesworth is convinced there are.

Then he wants to be the
first to make a bid for them.

- I have absolutely no doubt
that there are hundreds

of fragments out there and whole scrolls.

There are individuals extremely wealthy,

probably billionaires
who've purchased these

for one reason or another
and they have fragments.

There are fragments in the
homes of lawyers and Bedouin

and other individuals in Israel today.

I do know that there are four
scrolls in Amman and Damascus.

- [Narrator] Charlesworth
knows that many of his leads

will go nowhere but it's
a risk he has to take.

- I am criticized for
going after something

that's not there but I have seen fragments

of the Dead Sea scrolls turned to dust.

I've seen other fragments turned

to water because they're so fragile.

It's important for me to get
them before they disappear.

They have never been seen for 2000 years

but we have to find
them before they decay.

- [Narrator] Charlesworth is not alone

in believing that the
truth is still out there.

In the Judean wilderness
that stretches Southeast

of Jerusalem, other scroll
hunters are on the trail.

- In order to find another
cave in the limestone.

We need a good earth, I
mean, that's what we need.

It's very hard, I mean, you
can look at those cliffs

and see that there's, you know,

a lot of piles of stones and you know,

underneath every pile of stone

there is a chance to find another cave.

- [Narrator] Hannen
Ashel is an archeologist

who continues to scar the cliffs

on the Northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.

Here, the first scrolls were
discovered 50 years ago.

- Sometime in the summer of 1947

three Bedouins were
climbing up this cliff.

And what they found was this cave.

Those two entrances were blocked.

And the only entrance which
was open is this small one.

And over there, the jars were standing

and one of the Bedouins
Muhammed (indistinct).

He told us that altogether,
he found eight jars.

Six of them were empty, one
of them was full with soil.

And then the last one, he
found three complete scrolls.

Now he took out his three
scrolls and some of the jars

and went down the cliff, back to his tent.

He showed it to his cousin
and they started to excavate.

Here they found another four scrolls.

So altogether seven scrolls were found

by the Bedouins here in 1947.

- [Narrator] Those first
scrolls passed quickly

into the hands of a Bethlehem merchant,

Khalil Eskander Shahin
better known as Kando.

Suspecting they might be of value,

Kando purchase the
scrolls from the Bedouin

and started looking for buyers himself.

The trade in Dead Sea scrolls had begun.

When the Bedouin realized
that scrolls meant money,

they began to hunt in earnest.

As desert dwellers they knew where to look

and unearth many more scrolls than

the archeologists who
were to join the search.

In that first decade,
the remains of over 800

manuscripts were found in 11 caves.

To stop the trade in scrolls and prevent

them vanishing again from history.

An international team of scholars based

in Jerusalem tried to buy the thousands

of fragments that came on the market.

Although they hope
they'd stop the traffic.

They had no way of being seen.

But who actually wrote the scrolls?

Whose story did they tell,
and why where they hidden?

As the discovery and trading
of scrolls accelerated.

Archeologists began excavating the ruins

of an ancient settlement called Qumran.

Just a mile away from the cave

where the first scrolls were discovered.

- In this room, long tables and short one

and tree quilts were found,
one from metal the rest

from pottery and finding
tree and the tables together.

Point up to the point
that some of the scrolls

were probably copied in this room.

- [Narrator] Evidence began to suggest

that the people who lived here

had been the keepers of
the Dead Sea scrolls.

Archeologists were convinced
they had hidden their scrolls

in nearby caves just
before their community

was destroyed by Roman legions in 68, AD.

For 2000 years the caves
kept their secrets.

Protecting a legacy from
the most formative years

of both Judaism and Christianity.

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Back in the United States,

James Charlesworth is setting
out on another journey

in search of missing links
in the Dead Sea scrolls.

(upbeat music)

His final destination the Middle East.

But first it's a long detour to Norway,

chasing scrolls is a global pursue.

- I really find it kind of mystical

to be out in this part of the world.

So far removed from the
so-called Holy land.

Looking for remanence of Jewish

writings from the time of Jesus.

- [Narrator] Somewhere near Oslo,

Charlesworth is following up a
lead that a private collector

has scrolled fragments in his possession.

- Martin Skoin is extremely wealthy, man.

And now he dedicated his life to acquiring

ancient manuscripts including
the Dead Sea scrolls.

There is a, the dream
that he will have some

significant fragments and they'll help us

put together the massive jigsaw puzzle

of the community that preserved

and copied the Dead Sea scrolls
and giving us information

data that has revolutionized
our understanding

of how it all began and how
we got where we are now.

- [Narrator] James Charlesworth
knows that missing pieces

can lead him down two
different historical trails.

Writings that reflect the
life of the people of Qumran

and tell him about the first
century or the biblical

documents they collected
and copied can reveal how

the Bible has developed
over more than 2000 years.

Skoin turns out to have
both, tiny pieces of three

of the first scrolls found in cave one,

which he bought from two of
the earliest scroll scholars.

- [James] Is this a fragment of Daniel?

- This is of Daniel, yes,
and it is actually written

in the lifetime of
Christ and the apostles.

And when you look at it, with
visible light it comes from

Qumran and it's the earliest
complete manuscript.

It is very important
to get them published.

- [Narrator] Skoin reveals
how one of his pieces fits

into a small corner of
the scroll jig saw puzzle.

- I had put this type of fragments into

its context here where it belongs.

- [James] It certainly does
look like it fits there.

- [Narrator] But on the
whole these fragments

are too small to be a
big help to Charlesworth.

- It's a pity, there's not more

that you could see more writing.

- Well, that's what we have
preserved from the first column.

- [Narrator] Although, there's
no major breakthrough here.

Charlesworth is heartened
to find a collector

with a wide knowledge
of ancient manuscripts

has reinforced his
conviction, but other scrolls

will be found somewhere
in the Middle East.

- Skoin is convinced that there
are maybe cigar boxes full

of fragments in the hands of Bedouin.

- [Narrator] Charlesworth
needs collectors like Skoin.

They can afford to buy lost scrolls

which he can then study,
but it's different.

- [James] The prices of
scrolls have skyrocketed

to the point that many people are not

interested in playing the game

because the prices are way out of line.

And I think when the prices come down,

then these individuals
who have scrolls probably

would be able to find
someone to help them.

- [Narrator] On his travels,
Charlesworth has found

that different collectors
have different motives.

- [James] Now, one reason
is this very lucrative.

You buy a scroll or a
fragment for maybe $10,000.

And if you're lucky, maybe
you sell it for $200,000.

Another reason as you become
very important, you have power.

And in many circles,
the most powerful person

is the one who has
something that you want.

(upbeat music)

(car brakes screeching)

- [Narrator] While James Charlesworth

travels towards the Middle East.

Professor Larry Shiffman
of New York University

comes with the subject in a
totally different direction.

- I'd say that what I am is not
so much a hunter for scrolls

but a hunter for what's in the scrolls.

I've devoted more or less my entire career

to trying to understand
what the scrolls really say

about the very, very important period

those years before the split between

Judaism and Christianity those years

before what I guess we could say

are the creation of Western
religion, as we know it.

- [Narrator] Larry Shiffman is a member

of the editorial team that
continues to translate

and interpret the Dead Sea scrolls.

Making sense of what's
already been discovered.

This difficult process of putting together

the jig saw puzzle of
reconstructing the scrolls

is taking decades to complete
because of its complexity.

- [Larry] Imagine that
you had a New York Times,

let's say and you took
only 10 of its pages

and then rip them up and then took

10% of what was on the floor.

And now you try to get a sense,
what is the New York Times?

That's really the boat we're
in with the Dead Sea scrolls.

- [Narrator] In the years
that followed their discovery.

The daunting task of piecing
together 50,000 fragments

slowed down the publication process.

By the 1970s, it had
almost ground to a halt.

This frustrated many scholars
who weren't allowed access

and even provoked conspiracy theorists.

But the scrolls might hold
secrets damaging to Christianity.

- For a whole variety of
reasons the original team,

after they assembled the jigsaw puzzle

was not able to get it published.

Now, these reasons included
illness, alcoholism, death, lack

of interest, Israeli Arab politics.

Finally, really what happened
was that there was so

much pressure to get this thing published.

The assignments were given out again.

And I would say that by 1991,
we were really on the way

to getting the material
published as it should be.

(typing on keyboard)

- [Narrator] With the
scrolls out in the open.

Shiffman is now challenging
a widespread assumption

that they are only important because

of what they say about the
origins of Christianity.

As a Jewish scholar, he sees
the scrolls as essentially

Jewish documents throwing
light on Jewish history.

- [Larry] You don't just
enlighten a small group

of weirdos who went off to the desert

and stuck some ancient books
in a cave for us to find them.

They enlightened us about the whole nature

of the Judaism of the period.

That's why I'm so excited about them.

- [Narrator] From their writings.

It appears that the people who wrote

the scrolls were a group
of Jewish dissidents

fed up with the
establishment of their day,

who left Jerusalem to
set up their own set.

- Now, many scholars use
the term (indistinct)

to describe the set, but
the truth of the matter is.

That we really cannot
identify with certainty,

which set that was or what group that was,

that left us the Dead Sea scrolls.

Like Qatar-
- [Narrator] From his work

on the scrolls Larry
Shiffman has been able

to enter the minds of the
people behind the texts.

The mysterious community who
lived at Qumran 2000 years ago.

- [Larry] We know they
devoted much of their

time praying and studying as they did

for one third of every night of the year.

And the results of their
study of God's law.

As enshrined in the Bible were

basically enshrined in their texts.

- [Narrator] Although
Shiffman's work is mainly

in the study in the
classroom he's not averse

as some real scroll hunting himself.

- I've been contacted on several occasions

and followed up leads that went nowhere.

And I know others have done
the same for some reason

whenever you start to get close enough,

that money is starting to be on the table.

The elusive scrolls usually
disappear off the face

of the earth so I'm wondering
if those scrolls really exist

I'm pretty doubtful, but
again, you never know.

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Sustained by his belief

that there are more scrolls to be found.

James Charlesworth continues his journey.

His next stop, Jordan's capital, Amman.

(upbeat music)

- [James] Now, how does one
continue in this task of looking

for scrolls or looking for fragments?

You, first of all listen,
get to know people.

And pretty soon you
learn, you hear things.

There are of course circles in which

you hear about basketball or cricket

and other circles in which you hear

about scrolls and they rumors that,

hey if you heard that
and you follow that up

and low and behold every
now and then you find out,

I cannot believe what we have found today.

(slow-paced Middle East music)

- [Narrator] On this trip,
Charlesworth's contacts point

him south into the desert to Petra.

- [James] Petra, it was a
magnificent trading center where

the Dead Sea scrolls were being copied.

I'm eager to meet some of the Bedouin

whom I've been talking to
you for about 15 years.

There may be some
information there and perhaps

even more than information
that I need to check out.

(footsteps receding)

- [Narrator] Although many leads

will turn out to be dead ends.

Charlesworth is convinced
that every rumor,

however vague needs to be pursued.

- [James] Beyond the
fragments I have no doubt

that there are real scrolls, full scrolls,

lengthy scrolls, well over 20 feet long.

That are in this area and
they're moving them out

and they're not in the hands of Bedouin's.

But through the Bedouin's
I can get fragments

and get words about what
this other material is.

- [Narrator] Here the Bedouin is still

acting as archeologists still digging,

as they had done in
Qumran several decades.

And the record shows that it's the Bedouin

who are the people most likely to know

the whereabouts of any new discoveries.

- [James] I am a professor at Princeton

and I have been here in Petra five times,

- [Man] Welcome.
- The Bedouin is from Qumran.

They come to Petra.
- Sometimes.

- Sometimes.
- Sometimes.

- You speak the same language.

- Caravan.
- Caravan.

- They make caravan.
- What do they

bring with them?
- Bring some (indistinct),

some eat, some salt,
from Dead Sea, you know.

- Antiquities they bring some antiquities?

I know that, they have told
me they bring antiquities.

Have you seen antiquities come over?

- [Man] This, this story
before my own life.

Before my life, this is all the story.

- [James] Ah, yeah.
- [Man] Not my life.

- [James] Earlier.
- [Man Yeah.

- [James] If you hear of
anything, let me know.

- [Narrator] This first
meeting hasn't yielded

any immediate results
but that's not unusual.

Getting information from Bedouin

is a long process of gaining trust.

And in the turbulent world
of Middle Eastern politics

and culture, Charlesworth
has to tread cautiously.

- [James] See, it's very
hard to sift this out

because the last thing
the Palestinian Bedouin

would want would be to let them get

in the hands of the people
they claim are their enemies.

So we're in this turmoil
of who do you believe?

And if they really had material,

why would they ever give
it to me or to a Westerner?

That's a different
culture, they don't want

their enemies to benefit
so I really don't know.

I was a little frustrated from Petra.

We didn't get what I had
hoped to from that area.

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] While Charlesworth

continues his search for lost scrolls.

Back on the shores of the Dead Sea

the hunt for documents
still in caves goes on.

It's a quest that has been pursued ever

since the original discovery in 1947.

Since then the desert has
yielded, not just Dead Sea scrolls

but manuscripts dating from
before the Qumran period

up to the Bar Kokhba revolt against

the Romans in the early second century.

30 years ago the desert seemed

to have given up the
last of its treasures.

- After 65, no more
documents were found not only

by scholars but by veterans as well.

Now, when I started doing my research,

the people told me look, there's no more

chance veterans found everything.

There's no more documents in the desert.

There's no reason to
excavate it more cave.

In 1986, we enter a cave West of Jericho.

And in this cave, first of
all, we found guns that were

hidden there probably
after the six day war.

And then we excavated the cave
and we found six documents

from the Bar Kokhba period, one document,

which is earlier from the
Persian period in the same cave.

In 93, we found 30 documents
lying outside the cave.

So it happened to me twice,
once in 86, another time in 93,

where I'd found documented
as you then did.

- [Narrator] In 1996, an
attempt to uncover more Qumran

documents led Hannen Ashel
to try to find a link

between the community and cave one.

The original scroll cave,
a mile or so to the North.

- I said, let's start from the site.

Let's see if I can find the trail leading

from the site to cave one and two.

Now, while I was walking here I found

those very nice trails
leading to this area.

And when I came here I was shocked

to see that there's cave
hill, nobody recorded them.

They're not being mentioned
in any of the reports.

So in 1996, together
with McGinn (indistinct)

the creator of The Shrine of
the Book we excavated here.

And in those two caves,
when we got to the floor,

we got we found hundreds of body shirts

and rooms of pottery vessels
including cooking pots,

storage jars and dishes and oil lamps.

All of them were in those two caves.

So I think that I can safely say

that those two caves
we use for habitation.

People lived here during
the first century.

- [Narrator] Charlesworth
pursuit of the Bedouin connection

takes him from Petro to Bethlehem.

Where the scrolls originally
appeared for sale.

To a rendezvous with a man who claims to

be the legendary Mohammed
(indistinct) the Wolf,

who found the first
cave containing scrolls.

(speaking foreign language)

- You were a shepherd before you found

the Dead Sea scrolls,
how did you life change?

- [Translator] They sold the scrolls.

Impressive people started to talk

of the scrolls, that Bedouin had found

were fetching this much and that much.

We sold them for £16 but
they were worth millions.

So we started searching
properly, it was worth it.

We'd find stuff and
bring it to the museum.

- [James] Have you looked for other caves?

- [Translator] Lots, we worked in

caves and emptied them completely.

There was one cave we
worked for one night.

A small one, not a big one,
we worked for a short while.

And found a piece of metal,
with nothing written on it.

But the Jordanian Army saw
us and started firing at us.

And we ran away, and that was that.

- Would you take me to see that cave?

- [Translator] I'll show you, why not?

(slow-paced Middle East music)

- [James] I'm Very excited,
does he have a cave?

And is there any connection between

this cave and the caves of Qumran?

That would be very exciting even

if we don't find a writing in it.

To find a connection would be

to me just very, very exciting.

(slow-paced Middle Eastern music)

(foot steps stamping)

(dramatic music)

(speaking foreign language)

(dramatic music)

This is good signs we've
got some pottery here,

some ancient pottery and you can see

it goes down pretty deep here.

People have lived in this cave.

(footsteps stamping)

Curious if this goes somewhere

it looks like it's been filled up.

Then I wonder what's
in there beyond there.

I can see back into this
crevice, maybe 15 or more feet.

It looks like a place where some things

have been hidden at one time,

maybe robbed by Bedouin or it has

an interesting story to
tell that's for sure.

Was it a place for hiding scrolls when

the Qumran (indistinct)
fled from the Romans.

(footsteps stamping)
That's a good question.

Here's another little crevice

is very interesting, isn't it?

That goes up a long
way, it looks very much

like many of the crevices in which

Dead Sea scrolls had been placed.

Well, there's no question,
this has been inhabited.

Wonder what story will ever
have to tell us over the years?

Are we standing now on scrolls,
how far down does it go?

- [Narrator] Archeologists
have visited this cave

but it has never been fully excavated.

It's impossible to assess the
layers of history at a glance.

To explore it further
he'll have to get a permit.

And Charlesworth has every
reason to be optimistic.

(speaking foreign language)

- Exactly what I thought,
we have Roman pottery here.

(speaking foreign language)

So we have clear evidence of occupation

in that one cave from the time

of Isaiah down to the
destruction of the first century.

(slow-paced music)

- [Narrator] Jerusalem,
where much of the drama

of the scrolls has been played
out over the last 50 years.

It's here in the Israel
museum Shrine of the Book

that the public can see the major scrolls

unearthed by the Wolf in 1947.

An opportunity that three-quarters

of a million people take each year.

(speaking foreign language)

- [Narrator] But it's in
the Rockefeller museum

in Arab East Jerusalem
away from the public's gaze

that the majority of
scroll fragments are kept.

Here the delicate business
of preservation and piecing

together still continues half
a century after it began.

Here scholars can have access to both

published and unpublished fragments

in their search for
what is in the scrolls.

In Israel as a New Testament expert,

Charlesworth is particularly interested

in how Christianity took shape
and how the unique writings

of the Qumran community can enlighten him.

(gate closing)

- [James] What was the world
like when Christianity began?

We really don't know, we used to know.

We used to be so clear but now we're

so convinced that we were
wrong, we know we were wrong.

- [Narrator] Charlesworth has requested

access to a controversial fragment.

It contains a combination of ideas

traditionally regarded
as unique to Christianity

but it was written a century
or so before Jesus was born.

(gate banging)

- Hey, how you doing?
- Okay, okay, fine.

Here's the plate which you requested.

(soft dramatic music)

- This is a very exciting
fragment for looking at a text

the portions of a text
that have remained how

many little fragments we have.

A Jewish document that it's
at least 2000 years old.

Let's say the century before Jesus.

And there are some very
precious ideas that have

been preserved in the larger piece

here referenced to a Mashiach

that is Messiah "The
Anointed One", God's Messiah.

The reference to the resurrection
of those who are dead

and the believe in this
is the end of time.

So these three ideas, we take some

of the Christian ideas like
the coming of the Messiah.

Now we can find that in some
of these Dead Sea scrolls

here is the Messiah who will come.

And that becomes very exciting because

we now know the coming of the
Messiah is not a peculiarly

Christian idea or unique
to Jesus' followers.

We know it as part of the
fabric of a very rich culture

to me the most advanced
culture in terms of symbolisms

and religion and spirituality
that I've ever seen.

And it's out of this,
that we're getting little

ideas that help us understand big ideas.

Christianity, but there's no
question none whatsoever to me

and to most scholars that
are now working in the field.

That the origins of Christianity

can be felt in these texts in Judaism.

Your is a precious, now we
can understand Jesus' language

in terms of its own
time, rather than saying

I'll tell you what it means and make it up

as we go along, we cannot
make it up anymore.

We must be dependent
upon what the language,

what the symbols meant, and Jesus' time.

It's a very important way of exploring

a dark period in history,
the dead sea scrolls then

are like the giant flashlight that shines

into a lost corridor of history.

- [Narrator] It's insights
from fragments like these

that drive Charlesworth
to search for more scrolls

and Jerusalem is a good place to do it.

Here rumors of hidden scrolls abound.

(slow-paced Middle East music)

- Just a few days ago a man
came to me from East Jerusalem,

an Arab, and he said, "We've
made contact with some Bedouin

who and allegedly hid
some scrolls South of here

maybe two hours drive South of Jerusalem

And they hid scrolls in the
earth in an earthern vessel

just before or during the six day war."

So that would be before 67,
so we're kind of running

this down you have two possibilities.

One is it is a, you know,
kind of a wild goose chase.

But then there are reasons to think

that we better be serious
and follow this up.

And that's because we
have seen fear in the eyes

of some of the Arabs
and the Arab is involved

or showing that they are
very scared right now.

And that connects not with
it being a wild goose chase

but there may be something
very important here.

- [Narrator] The lead takes Charlesworth

to the old city and the
meeting with an Arab middleman.

He hopes to be put in touch
with the Bedouins scrolls.

(indistinct chatter)

- [James] Do you have any idea
when they would be here then?


- [Man 2] This business
it's, you know how it works.

I think they also think we (indistinct)

- [James] Sure.

- [James] Exactly.
- [Man 2] Because,

then we have (mumbles).
- [James] That's right,

I know what you're talking about.

You see this is what we talking about.

You could find his corpse and
my corpse, that we don't want.


- [James] I know exactly,
I agree with you.

Getting up close to something
you didn't even dream.

(indistinct chatter)

In this whole enterprise you're
working with a real danger.

There is no way I'm going
to be involved in anything

like smuggling a scroll out of
a country or a fragment out.

My principle is very
simple where the scroll is

or where the fragment is
we should try to keep it

and find ways to have it preserved.

Photograph it so that
scholars can learn about it

and share what they know
with whoever is interested.

- [Narrator] In a game
where the odds are so high.

Smuggling isn't the only danger.

- [James] As we search for
scrolls, of course people bring

us scrolls and sometimes
the ink is so wet.

You afraid to touch it, obviously
we're referring to fakes.

I have been looking at scrolls

and many of them have
turned out to be fakes.

You do a study of the leather

do a study of the handwriting,

but still some of these people

are exceedingly gifted in making fakes.

So we worked together
as a team of scholars

and sometimes they are fakes.

- [Narrator] Charlesworth's
patience pays off.

The meeting in the old
city. gives him the chance

to examine a scroll from
the Bedouin, at last.

- We have here, the scroll of Esther.

That is lined horizontally and vertically,

so that Hebrew can be hung on
it and written right to left.

Precisely as in the Dead Sea scrolls.

What's interesting I'm
holding the scroll of Esther.

The book that we have
not yet clearly found

among the hundreds of thousands

of fragments found in
the 11 caves at Qumran,

but we're looking for a scroll

that's 2000 years old, not 50 years old.

This is not an ancient scroll.

And that's all the
difference in the world.

- [Narrator] For Charlesworth,

finding Dead Sea scrolls
is proving difficult.

The same as to have had an
actual search in Qumran in 1996.

But though no new scrolls were found

from his excavations,
other ancient objects were.

- And it's amazing that in
1996 you still find vessels.

So close to Qumran that nobody had found.

We start excavating then we realized

that we're standing on an
area of the tents were built.

We found even tent pole
that was used there.

Most of the members of
the Qumran set were living

in tents and huts and artificial cave.

- [Narrator] As more artifacts

are found around the Qumran site.

A picture not just of what
the community believed

but how they lived is coming
into focus and more knowledge

about the authors means more
knowledge about their writings.

Estee Ashel, Hannen's
wife, is an historian

and expert on ancient writing who shares

her husband's passion for the scrolls.

- We have a good chance to
have a look at first hand

sources that describes
the people Sultan belief

and especially this particular
interesting group that were

in the desert fighting
against the establishment

and trying to find their own way

in life and belief of Judaism.

- [Narrator] Her quest
to discover the secrets

of the people of Qumran is
shared by Larry Schiffman.

- This was a group which believed

that the entire world is
divided into two camps.

The camp of light, the good guys.

And darkness basically the bad guys.

And you were predestined to
be in one group or the other.

They believe that in the end of days,

they themselves and all
those who would associate

with them by coming to
see the light basically,

by realizing who was right
in all this would be saved.

Everybody else, Jews
and non Jews would die.

And the ultimate view of this group.

- [Narrator] By combining disciplines,

scholars have been able to reconstruct

the lives of the people of Qumran.

This small group of dissident Jews

who abandoned the bright lights

of Jerusalem and set up a
community in the Hills of Qumran.

That would last for over 200 years.

They developed a way of life
with beliefs and practices

that would later be found
in early Christianity.

And forms of worship and prayer that would

eventually influence modern Judaism.

Studying for a third of the night

and praying as the sun rose and set.

They waited for the end of the world.

A world which ended for them
when the Romans invaded.

On the Southern edge of the Qumran site,

are three cemeteries where the remains

of over 1200 members of
the community still lie.

- [Estee] You're standing in
the middle of a huge graveyard

with no name, you have no signs.

You don't know what is
the name of those people.

And I'm spending a big part of my work,

trying to figure out their name.

- [Narrator] In the winter of 1996

Estee Ashels investigation
was helped by the discovery

of some writings on a piece of
pottery known as an ostracon.

- A group of volunteers
were cleaning the wall here

and they found at the foot
of the wall around here

two pieces of one ostracon
and they took it out and start

looking at it and it was 15 lines written

in Hebrew script dating
to the first century.

- [Narrator] It appears to
be a form for new members

of the community, on it, with the names

of a volunteer Holly and a
leader, a liaison, real people.

As for Hannen Ashel it's
the graveyard itself

that tells him even
more about these people.

- All though, the cemetery
was not excavated fully.

We have only sample of the graves

it's is very important data
about the nature of the group,

because most of the people
who were buried here

were very young, they
died in the thirties.

Only one man got to the age of 65.

- [Narrator] The ruins of
Qumran are slowly giving up

their secrets and the young
Zealots Jews who had vanished

from history are beginning to re-emerge.

For the scholars who are bringing

them back to life it's
a unique experience.

- [Hannen] All the people
who deals with Qumran scrolls

and small community of scholars
they taking very seriously

every letter that are
written in the scrolls.

We are basically showing how a group

of young people had influenced Christians

and Jews the took God in a serious way.

And we can learn from
their writing about a very

interesting period that
influence all of us today.

- My own feeling about
this group is kind of

a two-sided double-edged sword.

On the one hand, I have
tremendous, tremendous respect.

For many of their teachings,
for their devotion,

for the beautiful compositions
that they produced,

the willingness to sacrifice anything

for what they understood
as God's way of life.

On the other hand, there are really

some teachings that
are hard to agree with.

Like hatred of those who
don't agree with you,

the feeling that everyone would be

destroyed in the end of days.

There are aspects here, which
are really hard to agree with.

(Middle East music)

- [Narrator] In the United States.

It's the writings of the people of Qumran

that are being resurrected
in an extraordinary way.

Cutting edge technology is being

used by high-tech scroll hunters.

Doctors Robert Johnston and Roger Easton

of Rochester's Institute of technology.

And Dr. Keith Knocks of the
Xerox research laboratories

have been developing a new
image processing technique.

They believe it will reveal writing

on scrolls that has not
been seen for 2000 years.

Until now the technique has
only been tested on photographs.

They are very keen to
work on actual scrolls.

Something that Charlesworth now back

in the States may be
able to help him with.

He knows that just 20 minutes west

of New York city in the town of Teaneck.

There are Dead Sea scrolls
parts of which are unreadable.

With the help of this new
technology he believes it may

just be possible to
reveal the lost writings.

The fragments arrived here back in 1948

part of a collection brought
to America by Jerusalem's

then Syrian Orthodox
Archbishop Athanasius Samuel.

His scroll fragments are now in

the care of the Reverend John Mino.

- This is just a beautiful
liturgical scroll.

- [John] This is one of
the, one of the fragments

that his eminence did keep and he wished

to be maintained by the church here.

- [James] Let me see the other fragments.

- Certainly, there is a
second fragment here James

that you may want to take a look at.

This I believe is from the,
from the book of Daniel.

- Definitely, you can see the word

Daniel here in Hebrew
(speaking foreign language)

that's beautiful, this
writing is so clear,

but I'm very curious if
we can get some readings

into this area where the
leather has turned to liquid,

liquefaction, where the
leather it collapses

because of the absorption of a of liquid.

And of course we can't
see anything in here

now with a naked eye but
it will be very exciting

if we can get some readings there.

- [Robert] Okay, go further left,

further left.
- It works.

- [Roger] Well this is, this is-

- [Narrator] Using their
state-of-the-art camera

with a range of wavelengths
that far exceeds the human eye.

The team convert the Samuel
scrolls into digital data.

- [Roger] Ready to shoot.
- [Narrator] Tension mounts

in the room.
(camera shutter snaps)

There's no way of knowing
what the camera will reveal.

- [James] Oh my, holy cow!
- Look at that.

- Unbelievable!
- Fantastic.

There you go there James, there
you go, there's some data.

- Unbelievable, unbelievable,
look at those, look at

that coming out, oh my gosh
can we improve this edition?

- [Narrator] They can at Rochester,

the scrolls now in digital form

of being processed by the team.

With the help of research
assistants, Mitra Mousavi.

(indistinct chatter)

- The image which shows the
writing in both directions,

scale them appropriately.
(mouse clicks)

You will just see the writing
in the other grade, perhaps.

- Perhaps, or you might see the-

- In the first part, you
can see that we can separate

out some characters with
using infrared light.

What we're going to look
at next is to figure out

how to take the jumble of
new characters that appears

and try and sort them out
between what's on this surface?

What's on another surface,
what's behind the scroll itself?

That may be that there are two pieces

of a scroll stuck
together and we're seeing

two images our infrared image for that.

- Wait a minute, let's look at this.

See we have here the piece of a scroll

stuck on top of another scroll.

And this gets fascinating to me

because this gives an indication
of that violent period.

When the Romans were taking the area

the only way something gets
squashed or stuck on this

it looks like we're getting it

in kind of like a footprint
from a violent time.

- [Narrator] The most spectacular results

come from the application
of the new technology

to the fragment of (indistinct).

Part of the Bible as used and copied

by the people of Qumran but this text,

Charlesworth is convinced
that we are within

a generation or so of
the original version.

Comparison with a modern
copy, may raise questions

about the accuracy of
the Bible in use today.

- [Mitra] This is what you were seeing.

Turn that around for me
won't you, yeah, yes.

This is what the, the
infrared picture looks like.

- Oh my see we have, we can
get this line one, two, three,

four, five, six, seven, eight,
nine, ten, eleven, twelve.

We we've, we've increased
this almost double.

Prior to this we were
working with a document

that is basically around a
thousand of the common era,

but this can take us back
way beyond the time of Jesus

to about a 100 BC that's
within a decade or so,

or generation itself of
the man who wrote that.

And that means we have gone back

at least a 1000 years closer.

And it's the same thing, the same document

except for some minor
variations in spelling.

- [Narrator] For Charlesworth,

this is the end of a journey that has

taken him across the world and back again,

in order to find treasure
in his own back yard.

- Even the possibility of,
it's like we've discovered

a new document or like
discovering a new manuscript

or another Dead Sea
scroll has being found.

Found, shall we say technologically

because if we find a fragment that has

one or two words on it, we're excited,

but here we should be ecstatic

because we have lines and
lines, plus we already know.

- It is clear that there's a large number

of these scrolls and scroll fragments

that have yet to be examined
using techniques like this?

We're able to get significant improvements

in the readability and the legibility

of the characters in the scrolls.

And we see that large
number of scrolls yet

to be examined using this
technique as something

that we could keep us
busy for quite a while.

- [James] You gave him an idea. (laughing)

- [Larry] You could say
that the scrolls send

us a message across the two millennia.

That message for us today, I think,

is to understand the extent to which

the very (indistinct) nature
of Judaism in that period.

Gave birth on the one
hand for a bit of Judaism,

but on the other hand so a whole variety

of transmogrification and changes

and all this to Christianity as well

which teaches that Christianity
has its roots in Judaism.

And therefore comes to
tell us the importance

of the kinds of relations
between the two groups

that we would hope to
be there for the future.

- [Hadden] There is good
reason to continue to look

and I'm sure that Cave 12 will be found.

I really hope that I will
take part in this adventure

but if not, I'm willing that
everybody else will do it.

As long as we have more documents

we'll have better data about
the people is important.

- What about it, am I going to continue

to look for scrolls and
fragments of scrolls?

Absolutely, I'm convinced
that there are a lot

of fragments out there that may help us

understand things that we
haven't even asked about.

So I shall keep looking as long

as I live because I've said repeatedly

I think the great discoveries
are yet to be made.

(upbeat music)