Two new caves discovered in Qumran

Ancient finds suggest use as a scroll repository

View of some of the caves of Qumran. © Ecopic / iStock
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Exciting find: archaeologists have discovered two more caves near Qumran on the Dead Sea - and possible hiding places from ancient biblical scrolls. In addition to some 2, 000-year-old pottery shards, textile remnants and strings, the researchers also found remnants of a scroll barrel in one of the caves. Whether the caves despite plundering still scrolls or fragments of ancient texts contain is still unclear.

Around 900 fragments of Qumran scrolls have been found on the Dead Sea so far. They date from the period between 250 BC to 50 AD and contain biblical text from the Old Testament as well as commentaries. The unique manuscripts were preserved in clay jugs and thus preserved. Thanks to modern analysis techniques, even hidden, heavily faded texts can now be visualized on these fragile parchments.

Two more caves

For a long time only eleven caves with clay pots and scrolls were known in the rugged desert area near Khirbet Qumran. But in 2017 archaeologists discovered another, twelfth cave. In addition to the remains of fabric covers and unrecorded parchment, there were no longer any scrolls in the text - the cave was looted long ago.

Fragment of the Temple Scroll, one of the longest of the Qumran finds. © Israel Museum

Now, a team of Israeli and US archaeologists have discovered two more caves near Qumran, once also used by the Essenes. The 53b and 53c baptized vaults are located in close proximity to the twelfth cave and contain finds dating from between 100 and 15 BC, researchers reported at a conference of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Denver. Even the newly discovered caves seem to have already been looted.

Remains of a scroll-vessel

In the cave 53b the archeologists came across a lamp, shards of storage jars, cups and a bronze saucepan. Remains of woven fabrics, braided ropes and threads were also found on the cave floor and thus possible indications of the use of this cave as a scroll roll camp. "We have not examined all the clay fragments from this cave so far, so we do not know if there was a scroll scroll, " says Randall Price of Liberty University in Virginia. display

In the cave 53c the excavations have just started. But already now the scientists have found the fragment of a dead scroll scroll. This proves that texts were once stored in this cave, so the archaeologists. Whether scrolls have been preserved in the depths of the cave, will now show further investigations.

Source: Livescience, American Schools of Oriental Research

- Nadja Podbregar