The Opening of the Copper Scroll, filmed by John Allegro, 3 October 1955






The Copper Scroll (3Q15) was found in 1952 by a team headed by Henri de Contenson. It is not one single scroll. Two rolls of copper were placed at the end of an ascending chamber against rocky walls, isolated by cave collapse into a kind of niche. After their discovery, they remained mysterious for some time, since there was a serious question about how they could be opened with minimal damage. Gerald Lankester Harding, Director of Antiquities of Jordan, arranged with John Allegro that the two rolls should be sent to Manchester, where Allegro arranged for their opening by Prof. H. Wright Baker at the Manchester Institute of Technology.

Wright Baker made the first cut on Saturday, 1 October 1955, and called Allegro to say a second cut would be made on the following Monday morning, 3 October, when Allegro could be there to advise (see Judith Anne Brown, John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 63]). Allegro filmed this second cut.

Judith Brown, daughter of John Allegro, has kindly supplied the Network with this film. The film was digitised by Tim Emblem-English at his London studio: It shows a roll being cut into with a circular blade by Wright Baker.  The film duration is only 1.21 seconds long, at 25 frames a second, but the quality (silver nitrate on celluloid) is excellent.

Please note  that this film is copyright. For any use of this footage, please be in touch with the owner, Judy Brown, at We thank her very much for allowing us to make use of this piece of visual history and permitting us to digitise the footage.

Further photos may be found in our blog entry on this work. See also John Allegro’s photographs of the Copper Scroll.