Researchers have discovered a new cave in Israel that they say once held Dead Sea Scrolls, making it just the 12th such cave of its kind found. The find is thus a milestone, according to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The cave was looted long before the archeologists excavated it, but inside they found telltale signs that scrolls had been there: broken storage jars and lids on its edges and in a tunnel in the back.
"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,” Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation, said in a statement.
“Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of 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.”
Archaeologists also found a string that would have tied the scrolls, as well as pottery, flint blades, and arrowheads.
“The findings include the 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,” Gutfeld added.
A professor and students from Liberty University in Virginia also helped with the research.
The team also found the iron remnants of pickaxes in the cave. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem said that it was looted by Bedouins in the 1950s.
"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 statement.
“We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain.”