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Archaeologists discover 12th Dead Sea Scroll cave

Remnant of scroll
Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld
Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reveal cave that held scrolls from the Second Temple period

Archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Wednesday the discovery of a 12th cave that held scrolls from the Second Temple period on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.

"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," Gutfeld said.

Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

The excavation is part of “Operation Scroll,” a new project by the Israel Antiques Authority which launched in order to survey and excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

Artifacts from the Second Temple period were discovered during the excavation including storage jars and lids whish were hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and in a tunnel at its rear. The jars were smashed and their contents had been looted.

Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority, asserted that archaeologists must hurry in the race to uncover the antiquities of the Judean Desert before thieves loot valuables from heritage sites.  

"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,” Hasson said. “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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