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School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Dead Sea Scrolls

Since the first discoveries in 1947 we have been in the forefront of research on and analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Our latest Dead Sea Scrolls research has informed several exhibitions and popular books, and also improved the conservation and display of fragile artefacts. 

Beyond academia, our research has informed several popular works and fired the public imagination and public discourse about early Judaism and early Christianity. A key publication, The Complete World of the Dead Sea Scrolls (2002; revised 2011), has been translated into Dutch, German, Hungarian, Japanese and Spanish and has sold over 60,000 copies globally. This book has become widely used on university and college syllabuses. This book and other publications, along with regular public lectures and invited talks, continue to inform the public about the implications of the Dead Sea Scrolls in several areas.

Woman looking at a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls in glass, bulb lit cabinet.
The University of Manchester is the only institution in the UK to possess some fragments of the scrolls.

In 1997-1998 we mounted a public exhibition on the Copper Scroll (loaned from Jordan) and related artefacts to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the opening of this scroll in Manchester. Manchester and its work on the Copper Scroll features often in TV documentaries, such as in the Raiders of the Lost Past Series on the Yesterday Channel (February 2014).

Our research has become a point of reference for national and international funding of research and other activities on the Scrolls. In particular, members of academic staff have been involved with the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation which raises and distributes funds for activities involving the scrolls. Professor Brooke has also collaborated as an external adviser with the Nordic Network for Qumran Studies. His work has included study of a private manuscript collection (the Schøyen Collection near Oslo); a comprehensive catalogue of this collection, to which he has contributed, will be released in 2014.

The University of Manchester is the only institution in the UK to possess some fragments of the Scrolls. Though uninscribed, some of those fragments have been the subject of intense scientific analyses; studies on the collagen of the Manchester fragments and on the chemical composition of the skin have formed the basis of determining how Dead Sea Scrolls might best remain stable. The implications of such analytical observations have been taken up by conservators, notably at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, and have informed their policies on making loans.

Our research

Our Scrolls research follows three strands:

  • Ongoing textual work producing principal editions of ancient manuscripts and reflecting on these from a wide range of perspectives
  • Scientific analysis of the Manchester Reed Collection of fragments, including a high profile study of collagen breakdown and chemical composition using the Daresbury synchrotron and facilities in Berlin
  • The production of technical articles and monographs on various topics, such as early Jewish mysticism, the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls for the study of the New Testament, and the analysis of the interpretation of authoritative scriptures in the Scrolls and elsewhere

With colleagues, Professor Brooke has built up in Manchester a series of key primary sources for research on the Dead Sea Scrolls, including:

  • The Allegro Photograph archive
  • The William H. Brownlee Archive
  • The Reed Collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments