Archaeologists with the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday the discovery of dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments from the Book of the 12 Minor Prophets, including Zechariah and Nahum. Believed to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome about 1,900 years ago, this treasure of First Temple period Biblical text in Greek and Hebrew is the first new find in 60 years.
In a perilous operation in a remote canyon in the Judean Desert south of Jerusalem, archaeologists and volunteers retrieved the fragments and other artifacts from the Cave of Horror, named for the 40 human skeletons found there during the excavations in the 1960s.
“The desert team showed exceptional courage, dedication, and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth, digging and sifting through them, enduring thick and suffocating dust, and returning with gifts of immeasurable worth for mankind,” IAA director Israel Hasson said in a statement.
“For years we chased after antiquities looters. We finally decided to pre-empt the thieves and try to reach the artifacts before they’re removed from the ground and the caves,” said Amir Ganor, head of Theft Prevention for the IAA.
In addition to the texts, the team discovered a large stash of coins from the time of the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt, a 6,000-year-old child’s skeleton, and what might be the world’s oldest intact basket.
In the national effort to preserve Israel’s cultural heritage, IAA has surveyed about 50 miles of caves using drones and other equipment over the last several years. The Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered near Qumran in the 1940s and 50s, are the earliest known copies of Biblical texts, and the remaining artifacts in the area’s caves have been subject to plundering ever since.