Washington, May 27 (ANI): The Palestinian family who sold the world's oldest biblical manuscripts to scholars and institutions is now quietly marketing the leftovers-fragments the family says it has kept in a Swiss safe deposit box all these years.
Most of these scraps are barely postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank.
But Israel's government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls, claims that every last scrap should be recognized as Israeli cultural property, and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market, Fox News reported.
"I told Kando many years ago, as far as I'm concerned, he can die with those scrolls," said Amir Ganor, head of the authority's anti-looting squad, speaking of William Kando, who maintains his family's Dead Sea Scrolls collection.
Meanwhile Kando says his family offered its remaining fragments to the antiquities authority and other Israeli institutions, but they could not afford them.
Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, in caves by the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, was one of the greatest archaeological events of the 20th century.
Written mostly on animal skin parchment about 2,000 years ago, the manuscripts are the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found, and the oldest written evidence of the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land.
They are also significant because they include the Hebrew originals of non-canonical writings that had only survived in ancient translations, and because they prove that multiple versions of Old Testament writings circulated before canonization around 100 AD.
While some of the scrolls are nearly identical to the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, many contain significant variations. (ANI)