Years of study lie ahead before the text can be deciphered, analysed and compared with existing texts. The fragments include tales told on the banks of Lake Anavatapta at an assembly of the Buddha and his disciples.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation and each explains his deeds in a former life and how they influenced this one. Just getting a peek at the text proved difficult.
Those involved had to uncurl the "cigars" whose fragility was a conservator's nightmare. Mr, Shaw said: "It is fiendishly brittle material. The first question was, 'will these ever unroll or will they simply crumble into many pieces?' "There have been reports in old excavations of things like this having been found and the moment they were touched literally crumbled to dust."