They date from the end of the 1st century AD or the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Buddha, who inspired disciples to spread his teachings, died in 486 BC.
"With these", said Mr. Shaw, "we're within 500 to 600 years of his death." Apart from bringing scholars closer to the original language of Buddha, this could corroborate the authenticity of teachings and sermons recounted in later texts.
The manuscripts include 60 fragments, ranging from Buddha's sermons to poems and treatises on the psychology of perception. The Library acquired them from a British dealer for a "five-figure sum", with help from an anonymous donor. Seen in a new light, their value is "incalculable", Mr. Shaw said. "How would you put a value on the Dead Sea Scrolls?"