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New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered

The Dead Sea Cave of Horror where the scrolls were found is some 260 feet below a cliff top.
-Photo: Video still, Courtesy of Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

By Tami Stevenson

According to a release from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), Tuesday, March 16, 2021, during an archaeological excavation that began in 2017, dozens of biblical scroll fragments were excavated from a cave in the Judean Desert called the Dead Sea Cave of Horror, along with the skeleton of a child and a woven-reed basket almost completely in tact, due to the arid climate.


The IAA described the discoveries as the “ … results of a challenging operation between heaven and earth.” The cave is some 260 feet below a cliff top and is “ … flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.”

The team has so far reconstructed 11 lines of Greek text that was translated from Zechariah 8:16–17, as well as verses from Nahum 1:5–6. -Photo: Video still, Courtesy of Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority


The Times of Israel (timesofisrael.com) released an article about the discoveries and said these scroll fragments are the first such find in over 60 years — they are Greek translations of the books of Zechariah and Nahum from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, and are written in two scribal hands. Only the name of God is written in Paleo-Hebrew script in the texts.


The artifacts are believed to have been hidden away in the cave sometime between 132 and 136 A.D. During the Bar Kochba Revolt, where an armed Jewish uprising against Rome took place, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.


The conservation and study of the fragments was conducted by the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Unit under Tanya Bitler, Dr. Oren Ableman and Beatriz Riestra.


According to reports, the team has so far reconstructed 11 lines of Greek text that was translated from Zechariah 8:16–17, as well as verses from Nahum 1:5–6. They join nine, much more extant fragments that were discovered by Yochanan Aharoni, who first surveyed the Cave of Horrors in 1953.


Coins from the same era, approximately 1,900 to 2,000 years old were also discovered.

Woven basket
The massive 24-26 gallon woven basket discovered is already being admired for its craftsmanship. Researchers believe it could be as old as 10,500 years and hand-woven from reeds 1,000 years before the first known pottery vessels were discovered.


The basket is being studied by the IAA’s Dr. Naama Sukenik and Dr. Ianir Milevski and was dated using carbon-14, by Prof. Elisabetta Boaretto of the Scientific Archaeology Unit of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Researchers believe this basket could be up to 10,500 years old. The oldest ever discovered.
-Photo: Video still, Courtesy of Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

The massive 24-26 gallon woven basket discovered is already being admired for its craftsmanship.
-Photo: Video still, Courtesy of Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

Child Skeletal Remains
Authorities believe the skeletal remains were mummified due to the arid climate and could be up to 6,000 years old. They found more than 40 skeletons there, according to the Times of Israel article, but the IAA only talked about the child in the release. It was discovered in a hollow beneath some large rocks. The complete skeleton is being researched by the IAA’s Ronit Lupu and Dr. Hila May from the Tel Aviv University School of Medicine.


“It was obvious that whoever buried the child had wrapped him up and pushed the edges of the cloth beneath him, just as a parent covers his child in a blanket. A small bundle of cloth was clutched in the child’s hands,” said prehistorian Lupu.


The IAA also said in the release, “Since the discovery of the Judean Desert scrolls, more than 70 years ago, to this day, the dry desert, which preserves organic finds, has been a target for antiquities robbers. This is the reason for embarking on the extensive operation, with the aim of saving the heritage assets from the clutches of the bandits.”