Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have revealed evidence that they have discovered the 12th cave that once held precious religious relics including parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Archaeologists scoured the deep corroding cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the southwestern shore of the Dead Sea, in search of precious scrolls from the Second Temple period. Sadly it looks as if the cave was already looted since researchers only discovered broken bottles that once held the scrolls and pic axes dating to the 1950’s. Dr. Oren Gutfield, an archaeologist with the University stated:
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.
Though the fact that the scrolls have been taken is a tragedy it does not seem to weaken the enthusiasm of the researchers. Gutfield went on to say:
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. 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.
The cave will be named Q12, the Q standing for the fact that no actual scrolls were found, and the remains of the cave are being carefully excavated and taken in for preservation and study. It is a constant struggle to get to these artifacts before looters and Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority states:
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. We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.
“Operation Scroll,” which is the name dubbed for the race to find these artifacts, continues with the newfound hope of more caves carrying the precious remnants of the past.
Featured image via Jerusalem Post.