Archaeologists have recently found two completely new caves in the West Bank close to Qumran that they believe may contain more Dead Sea Scrolls and have set about investigating to see if these caves hold more Biblical era relics.
According to Live Science, these new Qumran caves, known as 53b and 53c, are extremely close to caves where other Dead Sea Scrolls have been found and archaeologists are hopeful that they too may contain further scrolls or perhaps evidence that scrolls were once held inside them.
The Dead Sea Scrolls themselves have been found scattered in 12 different caves and consist of 900 manuscripts that were allegedly written by a sect of people known as the Essenes. It has been suggested that this group eventually left the West Bank sometime around 70 CE after fighting began with the Romans.
The first 11 caves were discovered in different waves between the years 1946 and 1956, with the vast majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls found inside of these 11 caves. However, an additional, but blank, scroll was later unearthed in 2017 when the 12th of these caves was revealed to archaeologists.
Besides the scroll, other artifacts were also discovered which included various textiles, rope, strings, and jars, which suggests that at one point there were most likely other Dead Sea Scrolls hidden inside of this cave before they were eventually removed, most likely by looters. Since the two new Qumran caves were found so close to the 12th cave, it is likely that other scrolls may be hidden here too.
Even though Cave 53b was found by looters and had many items stolen, they still managed to leave behind plenty of artifacts for archaeologists, who noted that there were “large amounts of pottery representing store jars, flasks, cups and cooking pots, and fragments of woven textiles, braided ropes and string.” And according to a paper written by archaeologists Oren Gutfeld and Randall Price, an oil lamp was also found right at the start of this cave.
But as Price explained, there was so much pottery inside Cave 53b that it is currently unclear whether there are any jars that once held Dead Sea Scrolls inside.
“We have not analyzed all of the pottery from this cave [53b], so we do not know if a scroll jar was present.”
The cooking pot found in Cave 53b was dated and found to have been last used between 100 BCE and 15 BCE, when the Essenes were still in Qumran. Additionally, the oil lamp discovered at the cave’s entrance looks remarkably similar to the lamps used by those residing in Qumran, which shows that it is highly likely that those in Qumran were also working in these caves.
With the two new Qumran caves having been discovered, archaeologists are hopeful that the presence of more Dead Sea Scrolls will eventually be revealed.