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Publication of ancient Dead Sea Scrolls announced 54 years after discovery

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Dead Sea Scrolls, dating between 250 B.C. and A.D. 70, have nearly all been published 54 years after their discovery in caves on the western shore of the Dead Sea.

The announcement of their publication was scheduled for Thursday at the New York Public Library by Emmanuel Tov, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the project's editor in chief.

The 900 scrolls and commentaries in 37 volumes, primarily written in Hebrew and Aramaic on more than 15,000 leather and papyrus documents, were found between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near the ruins of an ancient settlement at Hirbet Qumran, nine miles south of Jericho in the West Bank.

They are believed to have been written by the Essenes, an austere and insular Hebrew sect.

Scholars consider the scrolls a treasure of Jewish history and religion. They provide insights into what the Hebrew Bible looked like more than 2,000 years ago. They also reflect the thinking of Jews during the turbulent period that produced the beginnings of rabbinic Judaism and the dawn of Christianity.

Tov and others associated with the project said that nothing in the scrolls is likely to shed a bad light on Judaism or early Christianity as once was thought possible.

One scroll contains a Hebrew song of thanksgiving and was being dedicated to New York City in honor of its steadfastness following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Tov's team of about 100 international scholars, overseen by the Israel Antiquities Authority, has issued 28 volumes; two more are in the final stages of preparation. They are published by Oxford University Press under the general title ``Discoveries in the Judean Desert.''

An introductory volume is to be published early next year with a history of the project and a list of all the texts in the various volumes.
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