by Robert Feather, MIM, CEng.
New Dawn No. 80 (September-October
Robert Feather is a metallurgist, engineer, journalist, and scholar
of world religions. He is the founding editor of The Metallurgist,
editor of Weighing and Measuring, and the author of The Mystery of
the Copper Scroll of Qumran: The Essene Record of the Treasure of
Akhenaten and The Secret Initiation of Jesus at Qumran: The Essene
Mysteries of John the Baptist. He lives in London.
Qumran lies close to the Dead Sea at its
north western end, some 40 km east of Jerusalem. Here, in an
incredibly dry and sun bleached area there is, strangely enough, no
need for zinc oxide protective blocker, or life guards. Lying some
1200 feet below sea level at the lowest point on earth, the damaging
rays of the sun are screened out by the extra layer of atmosphere,
and the concentration of salts in the Dead Sea is so high that
anyone falling in immediately pops to the surface and cannot sink.
If a settlement is ever reached between Israel and the Palestinian
Arabs, under the so-called Road Map for Peace, due to reach its
conclusion in 2005, it is likely Qumran will fall into the area of a
new Palestinian State and one of the most important of all the
Jewish historical sites will no longer be under Israeli
jurisdiction. Prior to 1967 the area around Qumran was controlled by
the Jordanians and had been since the end of the war which saw
Israel established as an independent State in 1948.
for details, click
So why is Qumran so important in historical and biblical terms?
Part of our modern awareness of its significance derives from a day
back in the Spring of 1947 when the first of some 85,000 textual
items, ranging from tiny fragments to almost complete scrolls were
discovered in hillside caves behind Qumran. They turned out to
contain biblical texts, written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and
Greek from virtually every book of the Old Testament, and as such,
predated any previously found Hebrew material by over 1,000 years.
For the first time scholars and theologians had the astounding
opportunity to look at parts of the Bible in its original language,
rather than from handed down versions copied, and re-copied, and
altered over the intervening millennium.
In essence these biblical texts, which comprise part of what are
known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, showed most of the Old
Testament in its authentic ancient form – but there were significant
differences. These variations are now being incorporated into modern
translations of the Bible. There are also commentaries amongst the
scrolls which help explain and enhance, not only parts of the Old
Testament but also the New Testament.
A third group of texts describes the peculiar monastic like sect
that lived at Qumran between about 150 BCE and 68 CE, who wrote and
collected the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Generally understood to be part of the Essene movement of the Second
Temple period, the community at Qumran had a strong hierarchical
structure with the ‘right teacher’ as its leader. He was backed by
priests aided by Levites, who dictated the doctrine of the group. At
any one time there were about 200 members living near Qumran and all
members could vote in an assembly on other non doctrinal matters,
whilst general day-to-day administration was in the hands of a
triumvirate of three priests and 12 helpers. Everyone had a ‘pecking
order’ in relation to their level of learning and holiness, as
determined by their peers.
The Qumran Essenes considered themselves ‘Sons of Light’ destined to
fight the ‘Sons of Darkness’ – those who did not believe in their
ultra-strict code of Judaism. They thought of themselves as the
keepers of the original Covenant of Moses and as part of a direct
line of priests that attended the Tabernacle during the Exodus from
Egypt. For them the Second Temple, reconstructed by Herod the Great,
who ruled Judaea on behalf of the Roman conquerors, from 37 to 4
BCE, was a corrupt place they would not visit.
One of the most startling of their beliefs related to the calendar,
which for them had to be solar based, giving a year containing 364
days. The intriguing thing about this practice is the Essene
calendar differs from the Rabbinic Jewish calendar, which was based,
and still is based, on lunar movement giving a year of 354 days.
This meant the Essenes celebrated religious festivals at different
times to the rest of their Jewish counterparts.
the Copper Scroll
In March 1952, Henri de Contenson, an archaeologist seconded from
France to work with the team at the École Biblique in East
Jerusalem, was leading a team of ten Bedouin, when he discovered two
lumps of what is now known as the Copper Scroll, in a hillside cave,
some 2 km from Qumran.
The Copper Scroll was in an highly oxidized condition, and had
broken into two separate rolled up sections. In its original state
it measured 0.3 m in width, 2.4 m in length, and was about 1 mm
thick. No one knew quite how to open it up without damaging the
text. One lunatic suggestion was to try to reduce the copper oxides
with hydrogen, or even electrolysis, to recover the copper!
After considerable preparatory research,
John Allegro of Oxford University, a member of the original
international translation team working on the Dead Sea Scrolls in
Jerusalem, persuaded the École Biblique team to let him take one of
the copper pieces to England. There the first piece of scroll was
finally ‘opened’ by Professor H. Wright Baker at Manchester College
of Science and Technology (now UMIST) in 1955, followed by the
second piece in 1956.
The technique Wright Baker used was to
coat the outside of the scroll with Araldite adhesive and then slice
the scroll, using a 4,000th/inch thick saw, into 23 separate
sections. Ever since that time Manchester has retained a special
interest in the Copper Scroll.
In academic circles the Copper Scroll is known as 3Q15, the
indicating it was found in Cave 3 at Qumran. It was written in an
early form of Hebrew – a square form script – and has been shown to
have linguistic affinities to pre-Mishnaic Hebrew and Aramaic, with
some terms only comprehensible through study of Arabic and Akkadian.
Other Dead Sea Scrolls were written in square form Aramaic script,
or the so-called ‘Paleo-Hebrew’ script, derived from
‘Proto-Canaanite’ – itself an evolution from ‘Ugarit’, Egyptian
hieroglyphs and ‘Phoenician’.
The language was a major puzzles for scholars. The Hebrew
palaeography (style of script) and orthography (spelling) in the
Copper Scroll is quite unlike anything found in other texts of the
time, from Qumran or from elsewhere. It has, nevertheless, been
almost unanimously classified as one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and
now resides in the Archaeological Museum of Amman, in Jordan.
John Allegro, a religious renegade, amongst a team of predominantly
Catholic members, must have been the first person to translate the
ancient Hebrew of the Copper Scroll into English. What he read,
started a controversy that has raged for over 50 years amongst
scholars. It contained a list of some 64 locations where fabulous
treasures had been hidden, over a wide geographical area, including
large quantities of gold, silver, jewellery, precious perfumes,
ritual clothing, and other scrolls.
The Jerusalem team refused to let him publish his findings, nervous
that treasure hunters would come swarming down to disturb their work
at the Qumran site. They had also already made up their minds the
Qumran Essenes were essentially uninterested in worldly goods and
shared their possessions amongst themselves.
This mind set attitude runs throughout the academic and theological
community studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, and as we shall see later
on, they have preconceived ideas on what many of the scrolls ought
to say and dare not entertain new ideas that conflict with long
established dictums. New Dawn’s approach of trying to free up these
types of entrenched views is highly pertinent to this particular
field of study.
The mixture of frustration and excitement soon became too much for
Allegro as he began to realize there were other more sinister
reasons for the strictures being put on him. He relieved his
excitement about the prospect of rolling in treasure by mounting two
archaeological expeditions to Jordan, in December 1959 and again in
March 1960. Like many who get lost in the desert, he wandered around
in a circle eventually coming back to where he started from, having
found absolutely nothing.
His frustration was, in the end, vented when Allegro disregarded his
‘masters orders’ and published his English version of the
translation in 1960, under the title
The Treasure of the Copper
Scholars, notably Father P’ere de Vaux, Head of the École Biblique
et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem, and Father Joseph Milik,
members of the original Dead Sea Scrolls translation team, denounced
Allegro’s translation as defective and even cast doubts on the
authenticity of the Copper Scroll’s contents, assigning them to
folklore. Others were not so sure, and today the generally accepted
view is the Copper Scroll contains a genuine list of real treasures.
The Jerusalem team’s translation came out in 1962, entitled ‘Les
“Petites Grottes” de Qumran,' in the Discoveries in the Judaean
Desert series. Although it is the ‘official’ version there is no
accepted ‘definitive’ translation of the Copper Scroll to date, and
all of the numerous editions published have many significant
In conventional translations of the Copper Scroll the weight of gold
mentioned in various locations is generally given as adding up to a
staggering 26 tonnes and silver 65 tonnes.
When the weights of the treasures itemized in the Copper Scrolls are
totaled, we come to the following:
Gold – 1285 Talents
Silver – 666 Talents
Gold and Silver – 17 Talents
Gold and silver vessels –
Mixed precious metals –
Items with unspecified weights are as
In Biblical Talent terms the sheer
weight of the gold and silver is enormous. One Talent is estimated
to be about 76 lb or 34.47 kg.
The Copper Scroll seems to be referring to precious metals worth
around $2 billion at current prices, but whose intrinsic historic
value would be many times this figure!
Where Did the
Treasures Come From?
The Scroll does not reveal by whom, or when, the treasures were
buried, let alone why. But from some of the recognizable place names
mentioned, the treasures are generally assumed to have been hidden
within Judaea or near to Mount Gerizim, in Samaria (parts of modern
Israel) and to relate to treasures of the Second, or possibly First
Temple of Jerusalem. Both temples were known to be places where
considerable wealth was accumulated through the donation of
sacrificial gifts and ‘tithes’ by the general community.
Controversy over the origins of the treasures listed in the Copper
Scroll has led to the proposition of almost as many ‘conspiratorial’
theories as those promulgated for the President Kennedy
There are over-riding problems with all of the current theories
which, until now, have not been resolved. Scholars have puzzled over
how so much gold could have come from the First or Second Temples of
Jerusalem, let alone come into the ownership of an ascetic,
relatively impoverished sect like the Qumran Essenes. More
significant is the fact none of the conventional theories have led
to the discovery of any of the treasures listed in the Copper
My own view is rather different. Whilst part of the treasures may
well have come from the First or Second Temples at Jerusalem, as
descriptions in the Copper Scroll certainly refer to Temple
associated objects, when the secrets of the Copper Scroll are unravelled it becomes patently clear that another Temple is involved
in the descriptions – and the Qumran Essenes were guardians,
just of treasure.
Although, from palaeographic studies, the Copper Scroll is now
thought to have been copied at a date between 150 BCE and 70 CE,
there are enigmatic passages which correspond to early Biblical
Hebrew, dating back to 700 or 800 BCE, and it contains many unique
word constructions not in use in mainstream Judaism at the time of
The presence of Greek letters interspersed at the end of sections of
the text aroused my curiosity, as their meaning was not understood
and they appeared to be some kind of cryptic code. Many theories
have been put forward to try to explain these apparently random
Greek letters. They are variously considered to be made by scribes
as reference marks of some sort, initials of place names, entry
dates, or location directions, but none of these explanations is
accepted as conclusive and they remain a puzzle.
The numbering units given in the text, which relate to the amounts
of treasure, are also not clearly understood by modern translators.
The numerals are in an unsophisticated long-hand form involving
apparently unnecessary duplication.
There were other ‘anomalies’ for which there appeared to be no
satisfactory answers. No other Dead Sea Scroll was engraved on
copper, nor any known Hebrew texts from anywhere else, prior to the
Why should this be?
Why should a non materialistic community go to
such trouble to preserve the information on the Copper Scroll?
did they get the extremely pure copper (99%) from?
How could they
afford its very high cost?
When my metallurgical background attracted me to the subject, these
questions were not being confronted.
When I looked closely at the numbering units and weights used in the
scroll, it soon became clear they were not of Canaanite or Judaean
origin, where the Qumran Essenes resided, but Egyptian! Indeed, the
numbering system in the Copper Scroll is typical of that in use in
Egypt around 1300 BCE. The Egyptian system used repetitive single
vertical strokes, up to the number 9, combined with repetitive
decimal units for larger numbers.
If the numbering system was Egyptian, why not the weight terms also?
The ancient Egyptians had developed a system of weights specifically
designed for weighing precious metals, and this system was based on
the ‘Kite’, a unit weighing approximately 10g, but sometimes used as
a double unit (KK) of 20.4g. I believe it is no coincidence the
‘hard ch’ sound of the weight term used in the Copper Scroll text
equates to the Egyptian ‘K’ in ‘Kite’!
When these ancient Egyptian weight units
are applied, typical of the period prior to 1000 BCE, to calculate
the quantities of gold, silver and jewellery mentioned in the
Scroll, rather more realistic weights are obtained than those given
The approximate totals of precious
metals mentioned in the scroll now become:
We were now looking at weights which are
a fraction of those given in modern translations of the Copper
Scroll, but they are at least plausible values, quite consistent
with the amounts of gold and silver in circulation for the period.
For example, if we look at the Harris Papyrus, an ancient text in
the British Museum, dating to about 1180 BCE, it gives the total
gold holdings accumulated over a 31 year period by Egypt (by far the
most wealthy country in the ancient Middle East), as 387 kg.
The downside is that the value of our
treasure has diminished somewhat! However, we are still talking
about hundreds of millions of dollars in real terms.
The strange thing is that, although the type of numbering system
used in the Copper Scroll might have persisted in Egyptian temple
writing for some time after the Greek conquest of Egypt (in 330
BCE), its use was always specific to Egypt and it was not in use
outside Egypt, except in the period of Egypt’s campaigns in Canaan
from 1400 to 1100 BCE. The use of the ancient Egyptian system for
weighing metals died out around 500 BCE and had previously always
been specific to Egypt.
Why would a document, ostensibly written by a devout, unorthodox
Jewish community living near the Dead Sea in Judaea around the time
of Jesus, have so many Egyptian characteristics?
And why would the
writing material, numbering system and system of weights used, be
typical of Egyptian usage from a period at least 1,000 years
From as early as 3000 BCE right up to 1200 BCE, Egypt had maintained
an armed presence in Canaan, often as a stepping stone to further
conquests to the east. Egypt’s shadow had obviously been cast over
the early Hebrew’s experience, and yet, like other blind spots,
modern theology shies away from considering the Egyptian connection
Yet, all the major characters of the
Bible, from Abraham and Sarah, to Jesus and Mary, had strong links
to Egypt. Joseph, Jacob, all the founders of the 12 tribes of
Israel, as well as Moses, Aaron and Miriam, Joshua, Jeremiah and
Baruch, all lived for long periods in Egypt and were influenced by
its culture and religions.
After a lengthy analysis I came to the conclusion that Joseph had
interacted with a pharaoh by the name of Akhenaten – a monotheistic
pharaoh – and many of the basic tenets of Judaism, and by extension
Christianity and Islam, came out of Egypt. The river that branches
from the Nile at Amarna (ancient Akhetaten), Pharaoh Akhenaten’s
capital city, is to this day know as ‘Bahr Yusuf’, ‘Joseph’s River’,
and there are many other clues.
When I started comparing descriptions of the treasure locations
given in the Copper Scroll with sites at Amarna, it soon became
apparent there were many close parallels. Not only that, some of the
locations have already yielded archaeological finds of treasures
that match very closely the descriptions and weights given in the
Many of these treasures can be seen in
Museums in Britain and Egypt. Having made a connection for the
Copper Scroll to Akhenaten’s Holy city in middle Egypt, it was not
surprising a most powerful piece of evidence emerged when I looked
again at the strange Greek letters scattered in the Scroll. When the
first 10 are put together they spell out the name Akhenaten!
The validity of this conclusion is re-enforced by the opinion of
Professor John Tait, of University College London, who considers the
reading of the Greek letters as quite plausibly the name of the
Pharaoh in question.
Since publication of the first edition of my book, The Copper Scroll
Decoded, in 1999, the main theory has been tested against a broad
spectrum of academic and scholarly opinion, and in many instances
response to the main thrust of the theory has been favourable and
enthusiastic. Where there has been a negative response, it has been
in the form of guarded skepticism, particularly as the theory
presents a radically new view of religious evolution which strongly
conflicts with enshrined orthodoxy.
Response from academics, on specific areas of their own expertise,
has generally been supportive. On alternative interpretations of the
meaning of the Copper Scroll, for example, particularly in the
context of the weight and number terms given in the Scroll, there
has been a considerable consensus of acknowledgement that previous
interpretations have not been correct.
Amongst those scholars conceding
previous translations are deficient, one of the world’s experts on
the Copper Scroll, Judah Lefkovits, of New York, has reiterated the
Scroll is much more problematic than some scholars would allow. He
has written a number of books on the subject, including a recent
classic work The Copper Scroll 3Q15: A Reevaluation; A New Reading,
Translation, and Commentary, and now does not think the conventional
translation of the weight term as a Biblical talent is necessarily
He has suggested it might be a much
smaller weight, such as the Persian karsch. In supporting my claim,
against the views of previous researchers, he now believes the total
precious metal weights have been greatly exaggerated.
One eminent scholar, Professor Harold Ellens, of the University of
Michigan, has come out strongly in favour of the generalized theory,
which he says is almost certainly basically correct.
If there is a partial acceptance of the possibility of a connection
between the Qumran Essenes and the Jacob-Joseph-Pharaoh Akhenaten
period, it is in demonstrating the detailed historical links that
most hesitancy arises.
In the Kingdom
of the Blind....
Ben Zion Wacholder is a partially blind Professor of the Hebrew
University in Cincinnati, but he has the ability to see through the
tangled undergrowth of intertwined scrolls and is a king and much
respected father figure in the land of his peers. In the celebratory
50th anniversary conference of the finding of the first of the Dead
Sea Scrolls, held in Jerusalem, he created a major sensation by
going against his colleagues in claiming Ezekiel as the first Essene.
He perceives many of the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran Essenes, such as the Temple Scroll, New Jerusalem Scroll, the
Aramaic Testament of Levi, Qahat, and Amran, Jubilees, and the
Cairo-Damascus documents, as derivative of Ezekiel’s thinking in
refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the Second Temple and
standing outside normative Judaistic authority. In a sense he
recognizes two quite separate sets of biblical texts – Ezekielian
One of the most interesting aspects of this theory relates to
Ezekiel descriptions of a Temple, which is generally taken to be a
visionary Temple that would one day be built in Jerusalem. However,
when you compare the descriptions Ezekiel gives in the Old Testament
to those of the archaeological reconstructions of the Great Temple
that stood in Akhenaten’s Holy City, it is quite clear he was
talking about that actual Temple and not one which would one day
stand in Jerusalem.
Other Dead Sea Scrolls confirm this finding in incontrovertible
detail. The New Jerusalem Scroll, for example, which by the way
never mentions Jerusalem, ties its descriptions to Akhenaten’s Holy
Temple. Recently Michael Chyutin, and Shlomo Margalit, Israeli
architects, have conducted independent studies on the Scroll and
come to the conclusion it is almost certainly describing Akhenaten’s
city at modern day Amarna. Without the explanation I have put
forward, for a link from Amarna down to the possessors and authors
of the New Jerusalem Scroll, conventional history has no answer to
Incidentally these studies show that two other Egyptian cities also
exhibited similar characteristics to those described in the New
Jerusalem Scroll – namely Sesebi, a city located between the second
and third cataract of the Nile, and the Hebrew settlement on the
Island of Elephantine, near Aswan in southern Egypt.
A connection to Sesebi is not so
surprising as it was, like Akhetaten, built by Akhenaten. Why the
strange pseudo-Hebrew settlement on Elephantine Island, which is
dated to at least the 7th century BCE, should show similarities is
more intriguing. The people there worshipped
Yahwe, the Israelite
name for God, and built a temple as a place of worship. The
explanation of how this isolated community came into existence has
never been satisfactorily resolved.
My own theory is they were a residual enclave that formed after the
destruction of Akhenaten’s Holy City when survivors, mainly the
earliest monotheistic Hebrews, fled south for safety. An Australian
scholar, E. Maclaurin, of the University of Sydney, adds weight to
my theory in a paper entitled 'Date of the Foundation of the Jewish
Colony at Elephantine', published in The Journal of Near Eastern
Studies, Volume 27, 1968.
He concluded that the style of worship at
“...was of a form which could not
have existed in a Hebrew group which had been exposed to the
influences of Sinai and Canaan after the settlement.”
In other words Maclaurin rules out any
possibility of the community at Elephantine having derived from
outside Egypt after the Exodus (c. 1200 BCE) let alone at the time
of Solomon or the kings of Israel. Another Australian scholar, Ian
Wilson, seems to date the Exodus to around 1500 BCE, but the general
consensus is it took place some time in the 13th century BCE. These
are not the only students of Dead Sea Scroll study with an
Australian connection. I, too, have a warm affection for the
country, having spent seven years of my early life in Sydney, where
my mother was born!
Another scroll, the Temple Scroll, spells out the dimensions of the
longest Temple wall as 1600 cubits, equivalent to 800 m.
Conventional scholarship has nowhere to go in Jerusalem to
accommodate the Qumran Essenes’ concept of this building. The Temple
Mount in Jerusalem measure only 550 m x 185 m. So they conclude it
must be the description of a fictitious temple. The length of the
longest wall of the Great Temple at Amarna has been measured, from
detailed archaeological excavations, as being 800 m.
The logical conclusion is the information in the Temple Scroll, in
its original form, existed before Moses, and it described the plan
of a real temple that was not the Temple at Jerusalem. The details
must have been handed down in secret through a distinct line of Levitical priests, to the Qumran Essenes, who based their copy on
the original version.
When the Qumran Essenes built their main settlement building at
Qumran in ‘exact’ alignment to the main walls of Akhenaten’s Temple,
and constructed 10 ritual washing pools, they were echoing a
recorded memory of that Temple. Uniquely, and unknown from anywhere
else in Israel, one of the ritual washing ‘Mikvaot’ has four
divisions – just as one of the ritual washing basins in the Temple
at Akhetaten exhibited.
That the name of Aten or Aton, the name by which Akhenaten knew his
God, is embedded throughout the Old Testament, has many attesters,
from Sigmund Freud onwards. Many Egyptian names are read with the
letter ‘D’ or the letter ‘T’ – Touchratta or Douchratta,
Daphne, and in Egyptian Coptic the letter D can be pronounced ‘D’ or
‘T’ . Thus, Aton could well be written ‘Adon -ai’ where ‘ai
God to the Hebrews in the sense of ‘my master’.
Earlier in this article the question was posed as to why Qumran was
so important to historical and biblical history. Part of the
explanation has now been outlined in this article, and is described
in more detail in my latest book The Mystery of the Copper Scroll of
Qumran, published in June
2003. However, as yet there is no complete answer to the question as
the modern story of Qumran is still being written. There are more
secrets to be revealed and I hope to do that in a sequel book now in