Archaeologists have just discovered another Dead Sea Scroll cave, making the most recent cave the 12th that is known and one which once held Dead Sea Scrolls which were from the Second Temple period. This cave, which is located next to the Dead Sea, is located west of Qumran and is situated beneath a desert cliff. However, the actual scrolls of parchment are missing inside and are thought to have been taken sometime in the mid-20th century by Bedouins.
NPR reports that the Essenes would have been responsible for hiding the Dead Sea Scrolls.
“The scrolls appear to have been hidden in the desert near Qumran in the West Bank by a Jewish sect known as the Essenes that existed around the time of Jesus.”
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Ahiad Ovadia and Dr. Oren Gutfeld, along with Dr. Randall Price from Liberty University in Virginia, are the archaeologists who are leading the current team on this study and say that all evidence points to this new cave as being number 12, as Haaretz reports. If the team are correct in their belief, this new Dead Sea Scroll cave will be the first to have been discovered in 60 years.
Scientific evidence that this cave once housed Dead Sea Scrolls is said to be indirect. However, there were a large amount of pottery jars with lids that were in keeping with the style of those during the Second Temple period, which dates to between 530 BCE to 70 CE. The archaeologists working on this project have said that these jars were found lining the walls of the cave and were also placed near the back of a long tunnel inside the cave.
Dr. Oren Gutfeld explained why the archaeological team is certain that there were originally Dead Sea Scrolls in this cave and that the evidence leaves them in no doubt.
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“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 reason that the Bedouins are suspected of stealing the Dead Sea Scrolls from the now broken jars is because the archaeologists also noticed that there were two iron pickaxe heads inside the cave which are from the 1950s and had been left behind, possibly to be used again at a future date.
Cave eight also was in a similar state when it was discovered with plenty of jars, but no scrolls to be found.
“I imagine they came into the tunnel. They found the scroll jars. They took the scrolls. They even opened the scrolls and left everything around, the textiles, the pottery. Thank God they took only the scrolls. They left behind all the evidence that the scrolls were there.”
Other interesting discoveries were also made in this new cave, including evidence that prehistoric people had once lived inside of these spaces. This was evident from a carnelian stone which was inscribed with a stamp seal on it.
With so much interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and Google have worked together to make five Dead Sea Scrolls available online for public viewing, and there may be more to come in the future.
How do you feel about the 12th Dead Sea Scroll cave that has just been discovered, and how many others do you think there might be?
[Featured Image by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]