Buried anciently, these metallic plates are bound by rings and written in code. And some of them were sealed. Scholars are excited to open the sealed plates -- as they may provide the earliest look at the ancient Christian church.
Excerpts of Jordan battles to regain 'priceless' Christian relics by Robert Pigott BBC
[Note, this is apparently a forgery. See here for details]
A group of 70 or so "books", each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007.
A flash flood had exposed two niches inside the cave, one of them marked with a menorah or candlestick, the ancient Jewish religious symbol.
The Israeli Bedouin who currently holds the books has denied smuggling them out of Jordan, and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.
Jordan says it will "exert all efforts at every level" to get the relics repatriated.
The director of the Jordan's Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.
"They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls," says Mr Saad.
"Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging
The books, or "codices", were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.
Their leaves - which are mostly about the size of a credit card - contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.
Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.
"It's talking about the coming of the messiah," he says.
"In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.
"So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God."
"It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls," says Mr Davies.
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