Scientists Have Unearthed the 12th Dead Sea Scroll Cave

Feb 09, 2017 10:27 AM EST

It was believed that there are only 11 Dead Sea Scroll caves. A recent excavation revealed that there's a twelfth one in Qumran.

According to a report from Times of Israel, researchers from the Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) identified a cave that they believe used to contain Dead Sea Scrolls.

The scrolls are nowhere to be seen, but there's a piece of parchment inside a jar and at least seven storage jugs that are exactly the same as ones found in the 11 other Qumran caves. The parchment and the rest of the organic remains were found to be from the first century CE. Items gathered included flint blades, arrowheads and a carnelian stamp seal, proving the caves were inhabited from the Chalcolithic and Neolithic periods.

"No doubt we have a new scroll cave," head archaeologist Oren Gutfeld said. "Only the scrolls themselves are not there."

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The team suggested that this particular cave was looted in the mid-20th century. Pickaxes from the 1940s were also located inside.

"This exciting excavation is the closest we've come to discovering new Dead Sea Scrolls in 60 years," Gutfeld added. "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 twelfth cave."

The first set was back in 1947, but over the years a total of almost 1,000 ancient Jewish texts have been collected. Dated to the Second Temple period, the collection includes a valuable array of historical and religious documents such as text from the Hebrew Bible and some describing the philosophy of the Qumran community. However, the new discovery also means that a lot of preconceived notions have been exposed as false.

"We can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea Scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate," Gutfield pointed out. "How can we know for sure that they only came from 11 caves? For sure there were 12 caves, and maybe more."

Part of IAA's "Operation Scroll", the dig was also supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Israel Nature and Parks Authority, according to Phys Org.

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