The Copper Scroll is a difficult text to read and understand, composed in a form of Hebrew unlike the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The method of spelling and word choice gives it a first-century period of production (25–68 CE) which puts it in line with the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls. But of course, you can’t carbon date copper.

Translation problems are rooted in the Copper Scroll’s etching. The handwriting is unskilled, often crowded—making it difficult to know where one word begins, and the other ends. The scroll has thirty scribal mistakes. Several letters are incomplete or backwards. In bad spots, text was lost to deterioration. On occasion, the scribe writes in cursive, instead of the formal Hebrew block letters. In the last several columns (there are twelve in total), the writing gets progressively garbled.

I’ll give you a sample of what the scroll sounds like though. It is a verbless inventory. Lots of dry instructions about where to dig for gold and silver.

In the ruin which is in the valley, pass under the steps leading to the East forty cubits {…}: (there is) a chest of money and its total: the weight of seventeen talents. (1) In the sepulchral monument, in the third course: one hundred gold ingots.(2) In the great cistern of the courtyard of the peristyle, in a hollow in the floor covered with sediment, in front of the upper opening: nine hundred talents. (3) In the hill of Kochlit, tithe-vessels of the lord of the peoples and sacred vestments; total of the tithes and of the treasure: a seventh of the second tithe made unclean (?). Its opening lies on the edges of the Northern channel, six cubits in the direction of the cave of the ablutions, (4) In the plastered cistern of Manos, going down to the left, at a height of three cubits from the bottom: silver, forty talents. (5)