A NEW book is to shine a spotlight on 22 little-known treasures at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, revealing the 4,000-year history of the Jewish people.

In The Jewish Journey, award-winning author Rebecca Abrams explains the significance of the artefacts and details how they provide an insight into the lives of the people who owned and used them.

The author explores the political and social context in which the objects were made and her book will encourage visitors to seek them out.

They range from a 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scroll jar, to be displayed by the museum next month for the very first time since its purchase in 1952, to a forged English banknote made by Jewish prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp.

Spanning 14 countries, from Ancient Mesopotamia to modern Europe, the ground-breaking book focuses on each object and their owners, from kings and courtiers, to ordinary men and women, merchants, scholars and musicians.

Dr Xa Sturgis, museum director, said: "We are delighted to be able to publish this book of extraordinary stories that Rebecca has teased out from the Ashmolean collections.

"From everyday objects such as plate fragments, to a very rare Dead Sea Scroll jar, Rebecca has illuminated the story of Jewish culture through four millennia."

The Dead Sea Scroll jar was one of several found near the Dead Sea in the Middle East in 1946 and 1947 which contained ancient manuscripts including the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon.

Other highlights include a Roman coin made of gold looted from the Second Temple during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, a Hebrew magic amulet used by Christian Kabbalists, and a viola da gamba with links to crypto-Jews in Renaissance Italy and Tudor England.

Ms Abrams approached the museum in Beaumont Street with the idea of working on the book, which offers a perspective on the diversity and resilience of Jewish life, revealing centuries of close interaction and exchange with other cultures.

The objects on display throughout the galleries of the Ashmolean help to put into context Jewish history within its wider historical, geographical and cultural framework.

The writer is an author of fiction and non-fiction, and regular literary critic for the Financial Times.

She is also a tutor on the masters in creative writing course at Oxford University and writer-in-residence at Brasenose College.

Her great-grandparents came to England as Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Romania.

Paintings by Camille Pissarro, David Bomberg and Mark Gertler are highlighted in chapters 18 to 20.

The Roman Gold Glass in Chapter 10 will also feature in the section of Judaism in the museum’s forthcoming exhibition Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions, which runs from October 19.

The Jewish Journey: 4,000 Years in 22 Objects is being published by the Ashmolean Museum on Tuesday, October 17, priced £15.