Archaeologists Discover 12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave

The find by the Hebrew University is the most significant related to the scrolls in 60 years.

A remnant of a Dead Sea Scroll. Courtesy The Hebrew University, Jerusalem
A remnant of a Dead Sea Scroll. Courtesy The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

An excavation in Qumran in the West Bank has yielded a 12th site where the legendary Dead Sea scrolls had been hidden, the first discovery of its kind in over 60 years.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are religious and linguistic manuscripts dated to the 8th to 11th centuries, that were discovered in 11 caves in the Judean Desert between 1946 and 1956. They have huge significance, as the scrolls include the second-oldest surviving manuscripts associated with the Hebrew bible.

The discovery proves that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden there, and were looted by Bedouins around halfway through the 20th Century.

Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia of Hebrew University undertook the excavation with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia USA.

Some Parchment the scrolls were wrapped in. Courtesy the Hebrew University.

Some Parchment the scrolls were wrapped in. Courtesy the Hebrew University.

“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. Gutfeld, excavation director.

Although no actual scrolls were found, the team did discover a piece of parchment wrapped up in a jug, being processed for writing, besides a leather binding strap, cloth wrappings, leather fragments, and more. Pottery, arrowheads, and a decorated seal stamp made of carnelian found in the cave also prove it was used in Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

Part of the ongoing “Operation Scroll,” Dr. Gutfeld’s excavation was the first to explore the Northern part of the Judean Desert.

“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.”


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