Archeologists have uncovered a new cave linked to the famous Dead Sea Scrolls off the cliffs of Judea – the first successful excavation of its scope in six decades.
The cave, containing ancient jars and lids, is the twelfth associated with the scrolls. Previously, researchers assumed there were only 11 containing them, but this discovery confirms the belief that looters pillaged the scrolls in the mid-1900s. This was further reinforced by pick ax heads found inside a tunnel at the new cave, NBC News reports.
Along the cave walls, archeologists found plenty of broken jars and lids. More importantly, there were fragments of scroll wrappings, leather pieces and string.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of ancient manuscripts, numbering around a thousand, written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. They date back to the 4th century BC, and were first found by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947 in what is now West Bank.
Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archeologist with the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and head of the excavation, said,
This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea Scrolls in 60 years. Although at the end of the day no scroll was found…the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen.
Other items such as pottery, flint, arrowheads and semi-precious stones indicate the new cave was used by ancestors during the Neolithic period, which began in 10,200 BC and ended between 4,500 and 2,000 BC.
Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority, reiterated that there is plenty of work in Judea. Archeologists are in a “race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain.”
Hasson said, “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. 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.”