Hebrew University archaeologists find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave

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 - Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation

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 – Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation

Archaeologists working near Qumran in Israel have found a cave that previously contained Dead Sea scrolls. They now suggest ‘the cave should be numbered as Cave 12, along with the 11 caves previously known to have housed the famous manuscripts.’ Archaeologists say the find is, ‘one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries in the last 60 years.’

Archaeologists Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia survey the cave.

Archaeologists Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia survey the cave.

The surprising discovery was made by an international team of archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel and Liberty University in Virginia, the United States.

“Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of Cave 12 and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pick-axe heads from the 1950’s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted. The finds from Cave 12 include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll.

Jars that once held scrolls were broken open, their contents removed. Iron pickax heads from the 1950s were stored in the tunnel leading into the cave, which the researchers say indicates Bedouins uncovered the site in the mid-20th century and removed the scrolls.

Jars that once held scrolls were broken open, their contents removed. Iron pickax heads from the 1950’s were stored in the tunnel leading into the cave, which the researchers say indicates Bedouins uncovered the site in the mid-20th century and removed the scrolls.

Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation said “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. We can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

Researchers Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld filtering materials from the cave. This excavation, which the press release says is part of "Operation Scroll," indicates that more may be out there to be discovered.

Researchers Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld filtering materials from the cave. This excavation, which the press release says is part of “Operation Scroll,” indicates that more may be out there to be discovered.

“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,” Israel Hasson, director general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in the release.

The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that the cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that the cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

Other Sources: