Recent excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were once hidden there. Although they are gone, looted by Bedouins in the mid-twentieth century, discovery of the detritus left behind is instructive and thrilling to the chief archaeologists overseeing the discover, Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia.
Gutfeld and Ovadia are scholastic archeologists with Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology. They made the discover in collaboration with a professor and his students from a Christian school in the US, Liberty University. The Liberty University prof is Dr. Oren Gutfeld.
Until this "surprising discovery," scholars agreed there were 11 caves in which, at some time, Dead Sea Scrolls had been hidden. Now there are 12.
The team of excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.
The discovery was made possible by "Operation Scroll," launched by the Director-General of Israel's Antiquities Authority, Israel Hasson. Its purpose was, and is, to systematically survey caves in the Judean Desert -- and excavate them.
Excavation of Cave #12 revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. A number of 2,000 year old storage jars and lids were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave, and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear.
The jars were all broken and their contents removed. Who did it?
Another discovery in the cave's tunnel was a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s, evidence of looting and when it happened.
Cave 12, it turns out, is very much like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found.
"This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years," Gutfeld says. "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."
Dr. Gutfeld added: “Although ...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. 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;
The finds from the excavation 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. 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 this cave was used in the Chalcolithic (4,000-3,000BCE) period and in even earlier Neolithic times.
In short, there is evidence that people lived in the cave as a far back as the earliest days in the biblical record.
"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,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain.”
This report is based on a press release by Hebrew University at https://new.huji.ac.il/en/article/33424