Published March 30, 2011
One of the largest and best-preserved collections of ancient sealed books has been discovered in a cave in Jordan and are believed to be some of the earliest Christian documents, according to the BBC.
The 70 tiny books could date back to the first century. Carbon dating tests found that a piece of leather found with the scrolls was over 2000 years old.
Experts say the books, made of lead and copper and bound by rings, may be more significant than the Dead Sea Scrolls, BBC reports.
The writing featured in the books is a form of archaic Hebrew script with ancient messianic symbols, mixed with some form of a code, according to a news release. The codices show notable references to symbols of the Feast of Tabernacle, and depict images of menorahs and fruiting palm trees.
The books are currently the subject of a dispute between authorities, archeologists and an Israeli Bedouin who smuggled the books into Israel and hid them, claiming they were found by his great-grandfather, The Telegraph reports.
Authorities in Jordan want the books returned, since under Jordanian law, they are property of the Kingdom of Jordan, according to the news release.
Archeologists in Israel claim the books are forgeries, while British archeologists are committed to saving and studying the ancient scrolls.
"It is an enormous privilege to be able to reveal this discovery to the world," David Elkington, leader of the British team, said in a news release, adding in an interview with the Daily Mail, "It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."