The Copper Scroll

The Copper Scroll is part of a collection of 1st Century religious documents collectively known as Dead Sea Scrolls. These religious manuscripts, recovered in excavations between 1947 to 1956, are among the oldest Old Testament manuscripts discovered to date. Archeologists believe the scrolls were really a library belonging to a Jewish sect. The library was concealed during The First Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-70).

Unlike the other Dead Sea scrolls that are religious in nature, the Copper Scroll is a treasure map. The only scroll made of metal, this scroll lists sixty-four underground caches. The contents of all but one contain gold, silver, and precious stones. These treasure deposits, believed to be worth in excess of 2 billion dollars, may date from the Second Temple. Some archaeologists believe the treasures were deposited prior to the Romans sacking the temple.

Despite several searches, no treasure listed on the Copper Scroll has yet been recovered. The problem is that the scroll gives only a vague set of instructions lacking tangible starting points. The instructions start with a general geographic location or a building as the starting point. From there the instructions lead to the cache.

“In the stubble field of the Shaveh, facing southwest, in an underground passage looking north, buried at twenty-four cubits: 67 talents.

In the salt pit that is under the steps: forty-one talents of silver. In the cave of the old washer’s chamber, on the third terrace: sixty-five ingots of gold.

In the Great Cistern which is in the Court of Peristyle, in the spout in its floor, concealed in a hole in front of the upper opening: nine hundred talents.

Which stubble field? What salt pit? Are the steps still there? And even if the location is known, is the Peristyle (a continuous porch formed by a row of columns surrounding the perimeter of building or a courtyard) still standing?

There isn’t a solid starting point to launch a search. In addition, how do you locate a 2000 year old salt pit? Are the stairs still there? And more importantly, did the Romans (or anyone else) already recover the treasures? These obstacles haven’t deterred would-be treasure hunters.

In 1962, John Allegro, a member of the scroll editing team, led an extensive search for some of the scroll’s treasures. Using information from the scroll combined with a best guess approach, Allegro located and searched several possible treasure sites. Despite his efforts, Mr. Allegro failed to recover any treasure.

Were the treasures listed on the Copper Scroll recovered by the Romans? Perhaps historians like Robert H. Eisenman are correct, and the treasure caches were recovered by Knights Templar during the First Crusade. It could be that over the last two millennia the caches have been discovered piecemeal.

Or maybe the caches still rest under the shifting sands of the Holy Land waiting to be recovered.

Who really knows.

The Antikythera Mechanism

Discovered by sponge divers in 1901, the Antikythera mechanism is the world’s oldest analog computer. The mechanism was found aboard the Antikythera wreck, a Roman Period shipwreck resting at a depth of 180 feet. Archeologist have dated the wreck to the 1st century BC. In addition to the Antikythera mechanism, wrecked ship has yielded a trove of glassware, coins, and marble statues.

It is believed ancient mariners used the Antikythera mechanism as a navigational instrument to predict astronomical positions. The mechanism shows signs it was fixed in Antiquity, which indicates it was used often. Archeologists believe the mechanism is Greek in origin, and have dated it from anywhere between 205 BC to 100 BC.

The mechanism, which consists of 30 bronze gears, was housed in a 13 by 7 inch wooden box. Archeologist think the mechanism was operated by a hand-turned shaft, which turned the gears. Each complete revolution of the main gear is believed to equal a year. The Antikythera mechanism remains the most complex geared piece of machinery dating from the ancient world.

The Antikythera mechanism, along with other artifacts recovered from the wrecked ship, are located in the National Archaeological Museum located in Athens.

The Spatha

The spatha, a three foot (30 and 39 in) long sword, was used throughout the Roman Empire between the First and Sixth Centuries AD. The spatha was introduced by Celtic cavalry auxiliaries serving the Empire. By the Third Century, it had replaced the gladius as Rome’s standard infantry weapon.

The spatha later evolved into the Viking sword, which was used in Western Europe from 793 AD to 1066 AD. This design then influenced the European long sword, which was used by European knights during the 12th Century. It is also the weapon of choice in most Hollywood fantasy films.