Israeli archaeologists have discovered dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments in the Judean Desert – the first such discovery in sixty years.
In a landmark discovery, Israel’s Antiquities Authority unearthed the parchment fragments which contain biblical texts dating back 2,000 years.
The parchment fragments, ranging from just a few millimetres to a thumbnail in size, are believed to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome during the reign of Emperor Hadrian some 1,900 years ago and bear lines of Greek text from Zechariah and Nahum of the biblical Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets. The fragments also feature part of the name of God written in ancient Hebrew and will shed further light on the history of Judaism and early Christian life.
Meanwhile, a large woven basket has also been discovered in the area – believed to be the oldest ever found and from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period – offering a valuable insight into ancient humankind. The archaeologists also discovered the mummified remains of a child believed to date back 6,000 years.
The discoveries were made as part of a four-year project to prevent further plundering of antiquities from the remote caves of the Judean Desert. The team have utilised drones to map and search about 50 miles of cliff face along the shores of the Dead Sea.
It is believed the fragments were unearthed in a site south of Jerusalem known as The Cave of Horror, named after 40 human skeletons were found there during excavations in the 1960s. The site is believed to be near Israel’s Ein Gedi nature reserve.
Israel Hasson, the director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, praised the team for their “exceptional courage, dedication and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth”.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of the earliest known copies of parts of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible, other than the Book of Esther, written on parchment and papyrus. Many of the texts, which date between 3rd century BC to 1st century AD, were discovered in a desert cave near Qumran in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
A Bedouin shepherd came across the first of the ancient scrolls in 1947. He found them stored in jars in a cave in Qumran near the northern tip of the Dead Sea.
The arid conditions of the Judean Desert provided a unique environment for the natural preservation of artefacts and organic materials that would ordinarily not have withstood the test of time.