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Archaeologists unearth new Dead Sea Scroll fragments in desert cave

A conservator at the Dead Sea scrolls laboratory in Jerusalem works on fragments of a Dead Sea scroll on February 24, 2016
Gali Tibbon (AFP/File)
Fragments were unearthed during a three-week excavation project in May and June

Israeli Authorities have discovered new Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the Cave of the Skulls located in the Judean Desert, the Haaretz daily reported Tuesday.

According to the report, the fragments were unearthed during a three-week excavation project in May and June. Some of the pieces measure just two centimeters by two centimeters.

Some of the fragments had writing, although others had faded to the point where advanced techniques will be needed to piece together the text, said Haaretz.

Between 1947 and 1956, 870 scrolls were discovered in the Judean Desert, including the oldest complete example of the Ten Commandments, in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea. Some scrolls were found to be nearly intact while others had deteriorated and fallen apart into thousands of small fragments.

Shai Halevi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Technological advancements have aided in the deciphering of these fragments, as well as other texts deemed too fragile to be touched by human hands.

Earlier this year Israeli scholars and computer science experts teamed up with German counterparts to create "an enhanced hands-on virtual work space that will allow scholars around the world to work together simultaneously, as well as a new platform for collaborative production and publication of Dead Sea Scrolls editions."

This work space will include digital tools to "help researchers to identify connections between various fragments and manuscripts."

In July researchers used advanced digital scanning tools to "virtually unwrap" what is believed to be the earliest copy ever found of an Old Testament Bible scripture.

Courtesy of IAA

Named the "En-Gedi scroll," the extremely fragile scroll was burned in a fire in the 6th century and was impossible to touch without dissolving into chunks of ash.

In May of this year, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced a plan to renew excavations in the series of caves in the Judean Desert in an effort to keep remaining relics from being plundered by looters.

“The most important thing that can come out of these fragments is if we can connect them with other documents that were looted from the Judean Desert, and that have no known provenance," Dr. Uri Davidovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told Haaretz. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

According to Haaretz, fragments were found in what likely were piles of dumped materials left behind by looters, and the disturbances to the site will make it difficult to accurately date artifacts found there.

In addition to the scroll fragments, archaeologists found stone vessels, wooden lice combs, textiles, tools, and pottery shards as well as a fabric bundle containing beads. The cave earned its name from seven human skulls that were found inside during previous excavations.

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