the guardians of the dead sea scrolls

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor view a mounted Dead Sea Scrolls being prepared for exhibition in the Israel Antiquities Authority's Artifacts Treatment and Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor holding a photographic reproduction of the Deuteronomy scroll containing the 10 Commandments, in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

there is a great new article in ha’aretz by nir hassan that talks about the guardians of the dead sea scrolls: four tireless women who restore and preserve the dead sea scrolls for future generations. lead by pnina shor, these scientists – tania treiger, asia vexler, tanya bitler, and lena libman – painstakingly work on the scrolls and scroll fragments to make sure they do not succumb to the elements. as the article states:

But without the work of the four women in the conservation laboratory, Israel and Jordan would have nothing left to squabble over a few years from now. Innocent mistakes made in storing the scrolls led to their deterioration and disintegration over the years. Treiger and her colleagues are constantly fighting every source of damage to these 2,000-year-old treasures, including light, chemicals and heat.

Overseeing the efforts is Pnina Shor, head of Artifacts Treatment and Conservation at the authority. Shor is soon to be the first director of a special unit that will handle all the work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. “There is no other collection like this in the world, with such problems and such importance,” she says.

i had the honor of meeting many of them in their lab just last week. the article goes on to clarify:

Treiger, whose tools include Q-tips, tweezers and lots of patience, is one of four “guardians” of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These four women, all from the former Soviet Union, are the only people in the world permitted to touch the scrolls.

i repeat: they are the only ones permitted to touch the scrolls (and they do a very effective job of policing that policy!)

below are some of the pictures i took in the lab.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor at the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.

Not a Dead Sea Scroll, but a Bar-Kokhba Letter presently in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Not a Dead Sea Scroll, but a Bar-Kokhba Letter presently in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

IAA Conservation Lab

Lena Libman, Head of the DSS Conservation lab of the IAA.

IAA Conservation Lab

Asia Vexler, DSS Conservator, treats the phylacteries.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin or phylacteries being restored in the Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Lab of the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. Pnina Shor read a section of a mounted Dead Sea Scroll in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor read a section of a photographic reproduction of the Deuteronomy scroll containing the 10 Commandments, in the IAA DSS Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. Pnina Shor read a section of a mounted Dead Sea Scroll in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor read a section of a photographic reproduction of the Deuteronomy scroll containing the 10 Commandments, in the IAA DSS Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Dr. Robert Cargill and Dr. Pnina Shor read a section of a mounted Dead Sea Scroll in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Robert Cargill and Pnina Shor, Head of the Department for the Treatment and Conservation of Artifacts, in the IAA Conservation lab in Jerusalem.

Tefillin Fragment. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

Tefillin Fragment. Photo by Robert R. Cargill.

congrats to the iaa conservation lab team on their work. and thanx to ha’aretz for highlighting their work!!

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