Stolen scroll sheds light on exile days

A 2,000-year-old papyrus fragment offering rare evidence of early Jewish history was seized by police in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Two men were arrested.

The 15 lines of Hebrew, written in the style of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains a the phrase “year four to the destruction of Israel” — a reference possibly to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE or the Roman defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt nearly 70 years later.

Amir Ganor, director of the Israel Antiquties Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery, said it would require laboratory analysis to rule out a modern forgery.

“A historic document that can be definitely dated based on a reference to a historical event such as the ‘destruction of Israel’ has never been discovered,” he said.

“It seems that this document deals with the property of Miriam Bat Ya‘akov, who was apparently a widow.

“This is rare historic evidence about the Jewish people in their country from more than 2,000 years ago, during the days following the destruction which sent the people of Israel into exile for a very long time — until the creation of the state of Israel.”

    Last updated: 11:59am, May 7 2009