The Mystery of the Copper Scroll
JERUSALEM, Israel - In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd wandered the hills of Qumran in search of a missing sheep.
He threw a stone into a cave, hoping to drive the lost animal outside. Instead, the sound of shattered pottery drew the shepherd inside the cave.
There he stumbled on the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century: the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Copper Scroll
In the years that followed, archaeologists found eleven caves and more than 900 documents here at Qumran. But one scroll was different from all the rest.
Instead of leather or parchment, it was made entirely of copper, and it could be the greatest treasure map in history.
The Copper Scroll describes a hidden cache of gold and silver buried in more than 60 locations throughout Israel.
The monetary value is close to $3 billion, but the historical value - is priceless.
The only place in ancient Israel with that much wealth was the Jewish Temple.
Stephen Pfann is one of the editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
"This is a tremendous witness to history. To actually have a list of treasures from the temple itself from the first century is just amazing. We have nothing better than the Copper Scroll now for telling us what was really there," Pfann, one of the editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls said.
Pfann took CBN News' Chris Mitchell up to cave number 3 at Qumra, where the Copper Scroll was hidden for nearly 2,000 years.
"You can actually see the place where the Copper Scroll was found," Pfann said.
The Purpose of the Scroll
"Well, the copper scroll had to be written just immediately before the destruction of the temple," Pfann explained.
"It actually fits the glove perfectly for these people known as the Zealots, who were the priestly group, who were holding down the temple, who were keeping it from the Romans in the best way possible. Before they were massacred, they left things behind in caves here in Qumran," he said
Some of their hiding places are easy to find on a modern map like Jericho, the Valley of Achor, and Mount Gerizim.
Others are more cryptic like "Solomon's Canal," which contains a stash of silver coins, a well in Milham where garments for the high priest were hidden, or Matia's Courtyard, where more than 600 gold and silver temple vessels were buried.
"The instruction on the scroll is like a kids' treasure map in a way; They're talking about caves, they're talking about tombs, they're talking about aqueducts and pools that were known to them at the time - probably with aliases of names applied to these places so that only those people who are part of the inner circle would know where to go, how many steps to go away and where to find the temple treasure that was buried in that spot." Pfann said.
The scroll's language is a mystery in itself.
Some passages use a style of Hebrew that's 800 years older than the scroll itself. Adding to the puzzle is a series of random Greek letters.
Pfann said, "It kind of freezes in time the language to around 70 AD to what the Hebrew language looked like among the common people of that time.
The Fate of the Lost Treasure
Pfann says anyone looking for it today is about 2,000 years too late.
"In my mind, most if not all of these were actually found by the Romans under the point of the sword And we do know that Titus used the booty to build the Colosseum in Rome. It says so on the Colosseum. You can actually see the impression of the letters, 'this was built with the booty,'" Pfann said.
"If there's any treasure left, there would have been small parts that might not have been found that still lie out there ready for people to find today. We don't know," he said.
The scroll's last line hints at an even greater treasure, "In a dry well at Kohlit a copy of this document with its explanation and an inventory of each and every thing."
"What's interesting is that there were actually two treasure maps that were made," Pfann said.
"Line 64 of the copper scroll is the most fascinating of all - hard to decode but quite compelling," said author Joel Rosenberg.
The Discovery of all Discoveries
Rosenberg hit the New York Times bestseller list with his novel on the Copper Scroll.
He believes the second scroll is still out there and it could be the key to the greatest archaeological prize in history.
"What if finding the treasures of the Copper Scroll did in fact lead to the Ark of the Covenant being found?" he asked.
Rosenberg may be on to something.
Ancient Jewish writings say the ark and other first temple treasures were hidden by priests before the invasion of the Babylonians.
Their locations were inscribed on a tablet of copper.
Rosenberg said, "The Key Scroll has never been found, nobody has any idea where it is."
"What would be most dramatic is if in fact the treasures that are described by the Copper Scroll -and perhaps revealed more fully in the Key Scroll - are in fact from the second temple. Finding them would in fact be the most dramatic archeological discovery of all time."
*Originally aired March 31, 2008.