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Ketef Jericho Scrolls, 4th century BCE

Ketef_Jericho_Scroll

Ketef Jericho “Cigarette” Scroll

The Ketef Jericho scrolls were discovered by Hanan Eshel in 1986. The scrolls contain financial documents and contracts written in Greek and Aramaic. One scroll, rolled up like a cigarette, is the most legible.

It consists of a list of Jewish names; next to each name is a number in shekels, revi’as and ma’ahs, all ancient coins. A shekel equals a Roman tetra-drachma. A revi’a equals one-quarter of a shekel. A ma’ah equals one-sixth of a revi’a.

At the bottom of the inside list on the scroll is the statement- “total 21 shekels.” The outside of the scroll has a similar list except that the sum is “total [ ] shekels. 8 shekels outstanding.” Apparently, the inside list is a list of people who borrowed money, while the outside list notes the repayments on the loans. The same names appear on both sides, but the sums on the outside are always less than on the inside. The numbers and the indication of so many shekels “outstanding” suggest that some borrowers had repaid their debt, at least partially, while others still owed on theirs.

Several of the names on the list—Avi’ur, Garpah and Shephanah—were previously unknown. Others are typical Jewish names from the Second Temple period—names like Yehoseph, Yeho’ezer, Yohanan, Akov and Dalui. Most of the names are given in the form “X son of Y,” but there are some exceptions. One man is identified as “Shlomiyah Nagra,” Shlomiyah the carpenter. Another is “Takhanah Khatlah.” “Khatlah” was apparently his nickname. This same nickname was discovered on a jar at Qumran, where it appears as “Yohanan Khatlah.” The meaning of this nickname, if that’s what it is, is a mystery.

How I Found a Fourth-Century B.C. Papyrus Scroll on My First Time Out! Hanan Eshel, BAR 15-05, Sep-Oct 1989.

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