An Israeli antiquities official says Israel is embarking on a major expedition to find more Dead Sea Scrolls.

Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority says a government research team will spend the next three years surveying hundreds of desert caves near the Dead Sea, where the world's oldest biblical manuscripts were discovered in 1947. The collection is considered the crown jewel of Israeli antiquities.

The official says the expedition will begin in December.

It will be the first large-scale archaeological survey of the area in more than 20 years. Looters have discovered ancient manuscripts in the area in recent years, prompting the government initiative.

Ganor spoke about the project on Monday with The Associated Press.