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February 8, 2017 2:03 pm

In Surprise Discovery, Israeli Archaeologists Uncover 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

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Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls at the newly discovered 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave. Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

Fragments of jars that contained stolen scrolls at the newly discovered 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave. Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld.

JNS.org – In a surprise discovery, Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a 12th cave that once held portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Hebrew University archaeologists Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia made the find — with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Virginia’s Liberty University — during an excavation in the Qumran region of the northern Judean Desert.

“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 Gutfeld.

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The archaeologists found numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period hidden along the cave’s walls and deep inside an adjoining tunnel, but all the jars were broken and their contents removed. An iron pickaxe head from the 1950s was also uncovered, suggesting that the cave was looted.

“Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, we found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing,” as well as “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,” he said.

“The findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen,” Gutfeld concluded.

This excavation was the first to take place in the northern portion of the Judean Desert as part of the “Operation Scroll” program, which was launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority to improve the understanding and excavation of caves in the region.

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