Courtesy of Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Bedouin shepherds discovered the first ancient scrolls by accident in 1947.

Jess McHugh
February 08, 2017

Archeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Institute of Archeology have discovered a 12th cave believed to have once contained some of the famous Dead Sea scrolls, making it one of the most important new discoveries concerning this material in the past 60 years.

Cave 12 in Qumran, near the northwestern part of the Dead Sea, contained jars, scroll casings, fragments, and even a strip of cloth that was used to tie a scroll, one of the two leading archeologists from the project told Travel + Leisure.

Archeologists found a remnant of a scroll, pictured here.
Courtesy of Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Archeologist Oren Gutfeld and his team found jars and lids hidden along the cave walls dating from the Second Temple period. While they did not find any full scrolls, the evidence from the jars, lids, and cloth ties prove that the cave once contained scrolls before it was looted, he said.

“There’s no doubt to the conclusion that we have the 12th Qumran scroll cave,” Gutfeld told T+L.

The Dead Sea scrolls are considered the world’s oldest preserved biblical manuscripts, and teenage Bedouin shepherds accidentally discovered them in 1947. Archeologists and historians in the region then spent the next 10 years excavating nearby caves and finding additional scrolls in 11 of them.

Courtesy of Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Exploration of the caves has been largely dormant in the past 60 years, however, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) decided to re-excavate the area following reports of looting in the region. The expedition was the first wide-scale survey of the area since 1993.

"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," Gutfeld told Phys.org.

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