Kathleen Kenyon, John Allegro, and the Dead Sea Scrolls: The Challenges of Politics and Preservation in 1960s Jerusalem




Risk, Rachel

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The Dead Sea Scrolls have been a source of fascination since their initial discovery in 1947. They have also been a source of controversy among scholars who debate their origin and significance. This thesis highlights a little-known conflict between two British scholars, Kathleen Kenyon and John Allegro, in the quest to conserve, publish, and exhibit the Dead Sea Scrolls. A thorough examination of correspondence written between 1960-1969, housed in the Kathleen Kenyon Archaeology Collection at Baylor University, reveals two opposing sides in the debate concerning how the scrolls should be handled. While Allegro was of the opinion that the text and translation of the scrolls found in Cave 11 should immediately be published and placed on exhibition in England and the US, Kenyon and her colleagues disagreed, preferring a more careful approach since the delicate scrolls were desperately in need of conservation work to keep them from disintegrating entirely. Kenyon and Allegro’s correspondence and their disagreements about the Dead Sea Scrolls highlight many of the struggles that still plague archaeologists today: the difficulties of political or bureaucratic involvement in research, the fight to gain academic recognition through publication, the ethical distribution of information, and the proper ownership and care of valuable artifacts.