A visit to the Vatican Museums almost always yields something new. You can never know which rooms will be open, so occasionally there is the pleasant surprise of getting to see material that is usually hidden away. There are also times that your eye catches something that is always on display but that, for whatever reason, you have missed before. In this instance, it was a couple items in the Museo Gregoriano Egizio. In a cabinet of miscellaneous near eastern artifacts, and facing away from the intense “flow” of directed traffic in the museum, are two small animal hide fragments inscribed with Hebrew text and framed upside down.
They carry the label “Inscribed fragments of Qumran Scrolls.” I was surprised to see these items here, not only because I had never noticed them on several previous visits, but also because I must admit that I did not know that the Vatican had any scrolls. I was aware that the Vatican Library financially supported the excavations in the Qumran caves in the 1950s, but unlike some other institutions, the Vatican did not receive any scrolls. And in fact, as the label indicates, these two fragments (inventory numbers 57241 and 57242) are not “excavation” fragments; they come from the personal collection of Salvatore Garofalo (1911-1998), a priest and theologian who spent some time in the Levant in the 1950s and 1960s.
The fragments seem to have been donated to the Vatican in the late 1990s. One of the fragments, written in a paleo-Hebrew script, was published in 2000:
Giancarlo Lacerenza, “Un nouveau fragment en écriture paléohébraïque,” RevQ 19 (2000), 441-447, with a follow-up palaeographic study by Émile Puech, “Note additionnelle sur le fragment en paléo-hébreu,” RevQ 19 (2000), 449-451.
Puech suggested that this paleo-Hebrew fragment may belong to 11Q22. The other fragment seems to be unpublished and, as far as I can tell, unstudied.
For provenance, little information is available, only Lacerenza’s statement that these pieces came from a private collection and that an earlier owner (presumably Garofalo) had acquired them during his time in Jerusalem:
“Ce fragment se trouve depuis quarante ans et plus dans une collection privée, à Rome, où je l’ai examiné récemment. Son existence m’est, néammoins, connue depuis longtemps, grâce à un renseignement du propriétaire précédent, qui l’avait en son temps reçu à Jérusalem, ainsi qu’un deuxième fragment, provenant également de Qumran.”
Lacerenza continues in a footnote: “II semble que les deux fragments aient été achetés séparément; malheureusement, les grottes de provenance étaient restées inconnues du proprietaire lui-meme.”
Better images of the pieces are available in an online article in Fogli e Parole d’Arte about Garofalo:
It is not clear to me how Garofalo came to be in possession of these fragments. I wonder if readers have any insights?