Historic discovery: Archaeologists find the 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave

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Remnant of a scroll. Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

According to reports, archaeologists have made a historic discovery as they have found the 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave, once home to the ancient religious markings. Until now, experts believed there were only 11 Dead Sea Scrolls.

Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology discovered the cave, which is the first site uncovered in over 60 years.

The famous Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the world’s oldest biblical manuscripts. While experts have recovered a great amount of the writings, many researchers believe there are more ancient scrolls waiting to be discovered.

The newly discovered cave is located on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.

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Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls. Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Regrettably, reports suggest that experts have failed to uncover any new scrolls but there is strong evidence that the newly discovered cave was the place where many of the ancient manuscripts were hidden. Experts believe if there were scrolls located inside the cave in the past, looters may have stolen the precious religious works.

Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology discovered numerous storage jars and several lids hidden in niches along the walls which date back to the Second Temple period.

Experts recovered fragments of scroll wrappings, strings that tied together the scrolls and pieces of leather which they say most likely belonged to one of the looted scrolls.

Furthermore as reported by Phys.org, experts recovered numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, which suggests that the cave was used both in Chalcolithic and Neolithic periods.

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Remnant of a scroll when removed from the jar. Credit: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Dr Oren Gutfeld, lead scientists of the study said in an interview:

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”

Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Reference: Archaeologists find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave

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