“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation.
“This is one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries, and the most important in the last 60 years, in the caves of Qumran.”
-Dov Smith, February 8, 2017
“Hebrew University archaeologists find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave”
Martin Fields wasn’t at the press conference, but he did read this and other news reports about the remarkable discovery.
Actually, he wasn’t all that impressed, but Isis was.
Martin had just “graduated” from time traveler school, but Isis, an other-dimensional being who always appeared to him as a beautiful Eurasian woman, still gave him his assignments.
The discovery of the first new scroll cave in over 60 years was no small thing, but Martin didn’t have a natural bent for history or archaeology (and he sometimes wondered why he was chosen to be a time traveler in the first place). However, this was obviously important to someone and represented a mystery.
All of the storage jars were smashed and the wrappings that would have contained scrolls and scroll fragments were empty.
It was believed that Bedouins had looted the cave sometime in the mid-20th century and sold the scrolls on the antiquities market, which then sold them to private collectors and institutions.
This didn’t happen all at once. According to a story published by Live Science, over the past fifteen years, supposedly 70 some odd Dead Sea Scroll fragments had turned up on the market, some of them traced back to a company called Les Enluminures which sells ancient manuscripts.
Their CEO was quoted as saying the scrolls they sold were now in the hands of an institution in the U.S., but declined reveal which one. They did say that these scrolls were found in the early 1960s, so they were probably some of those taken from Cave 12.
“What’s all this have to do with me, Isis? It’s happening in the present.”
He was sitting at his kitchen table scrolling through these news articles while Isis was standing to his right.
“It began in the past, Martin. You are tasked with finding the missing scrolls. You will be provided with appropriate tools. Once the scrolls are located, you will receive further instructions.”
Isis was being more enigmatic than usual, and that probably wasn’t a good sign.
An hour later, having finished his research, he went into his bedroom closet. The first thing he noticed is that the case holding the Temporal Jump Suit was much more compact, the size of a small backpack.
Then, when he opened the pack, he saw the suit was much smaller as well. Maybe his old suit was more of a “trainer” and this was the “professional” model. The controls seemed the same, plus there were several other devices he didn’t recognize, some quite small.
Martin put on the suit, which went a lot faster with the new design, since it was more like a one-piece pull over harness rather than a collection of component pieces. There was still a visual display that showed him the suit’s output.
The case was easily attached to his back, so he didn’t have to occupy his hands to take it with him. He set the controls to Wednesday, December 3, 1958 at 2:04 a.m. Geographic location was inside Cave 12.
He instantaneously materialized inside the cave and his visual display became a night vision unit. One of the devices Isis provided him with was a tracer spray. He covered all of the still intact scroll containers with it. Part of the substance was material, but the most important components were the chronotrons.
They were a form of radiation that penetrated the containers, the paper scroll wrappings, and the scrolls themselves. Once infused, the scrolls could be traced across time by the suit, not backward of course, but forward through history.
Using the suit, Martin would know where the scrolls were located at any date between this one and the present.
“Easy-peasy,” Martin said to himself (although he never knew when Isis was listening). Job well done, he returned to his apartment in the present.
He didn’t take off the suit. I used it to scan for the current location of the scrolls from Cave 12. A number of them were in the possession of collectors and other private individuals in Israel, the Vatican, France, the UK, and the US. The 15 sold by Les Enluminures were located in Richmond, Virginia, specifically at the Milton Research Center.
A Google search revealed they were a private, secular research and documentation facility that specialized in investigating and reporting on ancient manuscripts. On the surface, they cooperated with museums and universities, but Martin suspected they also dealt with the antiquities black market on the side, since there was no mention on their website of any recent acquisition of any Dead Sea Scrolls.
There was something of a mystery about their funding. Apparently a single, anonymous donor provided for their needs, but that must run into hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
While the donor was anonymous, the center was named after its President and CEO, Dr. Fredrick Milton, a respected though sometimes controversial archaeologist.
“Of the scrolls you traced, those at the Milton Center are the ones you are after.”
Martin nearly jumped out of his seat. “Would you please not just appear behind my back whenever you want to talk with me.”
“I apologize. I am not accustomed to the human startle response.”
Martin never suspected that Isis might have a sense of humor.
“Okay, okay. What do you want?”
Martin could feel his heart rate returning to normal as he wondered if he could teach Isis to knock.
“I want you to steal the 15 scrolls, replace them with fakes, and then give the original scrolls to Dr. Gutfeld.”
“What? You want me to break in to the Milton Center and…”
“No, that would be far too late. They’ve already started studying the scrolls and a substitution would be noticed. Now that we have the exact date of the intrusion in Cave 12, I want you to go back to the cave in 1963, before the looting, and replace just those 15 scrolls.”
Of course. The scan would indicate exactly which of the containers held the scrolls in question. It would be easy to replace the originals with close copies, close enough to fool the experts, Martin suspected. Then they’d be stolen by the Bedouins and start their journey forward in history, eventually being sold to Milton’s.
“Why, Isis? What’s so important about these 15 scrolls?”
“I’m not sure I can explain it to you, Martin, but if the information contained in those scrolls were revealed, it would completely change the course of Judaism and Christianity, as well as how the history of what you call Western Civilization is understood.”
Martin, at best, considered himself hovering somewhere between agnosticism and atheism, so he didn’t have a lot invested in either religion. “So what?”
“Trust me, Martin. While this information will eventually be revealed, it is too early in history to do so, and these scrolls should not be the primary information source.”
“If you say so, Isis.”
“Proceed to Cave 12, Monday, March 10, 1963 at 6:15 a.m. The ersatz scrolls will be there waiting for you. Once you’ve made the replacement, take the originals to Dr. Gutfeld’s office at Hebrew University last night at 11:52 p.m. and leave them on his desk.”
“Seems easy enough.”
“Indeed it is, but do not mistake ease with lack of importance. This could be one of the most critical assignments you will ever receive.”
“What is this? Some sort of Da Vinci Code mystery?”
“Be satisfied in the knowledge that you are doing humanity a great service, even if you cannot currently know the specifics.”
“Okay.” By the time Martin was finished uttering his brief response, Isis had already gone.
He stood, set the controls for the date, time, and place Isis indicated, and suddenly he was back in Cave 12, nearly five years after his previous visit. The fake scrolls, wrapped in what looked like ancient paper, were indeed waiting for him, each by their authentic containers.
Since the clay containers would be found smashed in early 2017, Martin didn’t have to take a lot of care in opening them and making the switch. The Bedouins who would steal them in a few weeks wouldn’t be archeologists, so they’d hardly notice any evidence of tampering or his presence.
“That does it.”
One of the improvements of his suit was that he could craft the temporal field his suit generated to include other objects, such as the 15 scrolls sitting on the ground in front of him. He’d probably take some of the dirt the cave floor with him, but that shouldn’t matter much.
Dr. Oren Gutfeld’s office, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Wednesday, February 8, 2017 at 11:52 p.m. He deposited the scrolls on Gutfeld’s desk. He was going to get a huge surprise tomorrow morning.
Martin set his suit for the evening of the 9th targeting his apartment and vanished.
Isis was waiting for him when he returned.
“So what now, Isis?”
“What do you mean nothing? When Gutfeld finds those scrolls, he’s going to explode. If finding an empty cave was such a big deal, telling the world he’s found 15 of the scrolls that came from that cave will be huge. I wonder when he’ll make the announcement?”
“There will be no announcement. There will be no public notification regarding these scrolls. Also, upon further study of our substituted scrolls by the Milton Center, they will determine that they are hand-copied duplicates of already existing scrolls, and that the rumors of their containing revolutionary information were false.
“So what’s the point of giving Gutfeld the scrolls? Why bother?”
“They will become personally important to him in a way you might not understand. He will work with his colleague Ahiad Ovadia in establishing a safe place of concealment for them once he realizes their importance, and in the years to come, conduct a private study of their text.”
“As far as the present world is concerned, yes.”
“What would have happened if the Milton experts had studied them?”
“They would have learned the truth, and on orders from their financial benefactor, would have spectacularly revealed their results to the media, drastically changing the history of your world. Whole theological streams would have been upended. There would have been murder, suicide, disbelief, the scope of which would be vast.”
“Is what’s on those scrolls that revolutionary?”
“Quite, Martin. Quite.”
Isis vanished again. Martin replaced the suit in its case and started thinking about dinner. As he begun to collect the ingredients for a recipe he found for spiced lamb in toasted pita, Martin found it hard to concentrate.
He’d once accused Isis of playing God, but what if she’s continuing to maneuver him into doing the same? His general mission was to correct temporal anomalies and “do justice,” but if time is just time, how could it develop “anomalies,” and why were they so bad?
It was giving him a headache.
On Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 6:42 a.m. in Jerusalem, Dr. Oren Gutfeld unlocked his office door and entered…and froze.
It would take months or more to study the scrolls, but even a brief examination convinced him both that these scrolls were authentic, and that they were previously undiscovered. He came across a critical portion of text in a fragment on the closest scroll, and realized that they would require very careful study before making any sort of announcement.
He cancelled his appointments for the day, called Ahiad, and months later, decided that they could never tell the world what they had found. Both of them would take the exact location of the hidden scrolls to their graves.
It had long been assumed that all of the scrolls had been composed or copied by a group of reclusionists belonging to the Jewish religious branch called Essenes, starting around 150 BCE and ending in 70 CE when their group was destroyed by the Romans.
What wasn’t known is that a small number of zealots, once followers of Ya’akov the Tzaddik, lived among the Essenes, attempting to avoid local persecution, and that they too wrote scrolls, including the 15 Martin had placed in the care of Dr. Gutfeld.
There was a reason the scrolls in Cave 12 were looted in 1963. There was a reason Cave 12 wasn’t discovered until the 21st century.
History wouldn’t tolerate the information contained on those scrolls to be revealed prematurely. Isis had engaged Martin Fields to give history a helping hand.
I read the two news articles I included as links here this morning and thought it would be fun to write my own Dead Sea Scrolls mystery. I left the mystery intact, although I did provide a hint as to what the scrolls might contain.
For those of you who are religious, I’m not trying to offend any particular group or groups. This is just a sort of “what if” experiment I’m trying out.