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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Biblical scrolls too fragile to travel
Before and after: Nasa transformed some parts of scrolls
Before and after: Nasa transformed parts of the scrolls
An exhibition of the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City has been cancelled because their safety could not be guaranteed.

Spiralling insurance costs and worries over how to transport them were behind the decision to scrap the show.

The Scrolls are some of the most important religious manuscripts ever discovered, and were written between 200 BC and 50 AD.

A fragment of the Book of Daniel is among the scripts
A fragment of the Book of Daniel is among the scripts
Brigham Young University and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee had hoped to sponsor the exhibition during the Winter Olympics.

"The decision was reached principally because of the uncertainty surrounding sharply escalating insurance costs and the challenges of transporting priceless artefacts," the university and organizing committee said in a statement.

The first scrolls were discovered in 1947 in a jar by shepherds searching a cave in present-day Israel for a lost goat.

The discovery led to a 10-year search that unearthed thousands more scrolls or scroll fragments.

Carbon dating has verified their age, and they are the earliest known Biblical scripts by a thousand years.

Space-age techniques

The Scrolls were shown at Chicago's Field Museum last spring in an exhibition sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Brigham Young University.

In 1997, Nasa scientists used techniques developed for space probes and fighting crime to reveal the script on some scrolls that had previously been illegible.

Scientists at Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory used the same imaging techniques to look at the scroll fragments as they have done to take pictures of the planets from space probes.

They used a special camera that "images" the scrolls at different wavelengths.

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