Like a scene from a blockbuster movie, archaeologists excavating last month in the Judean Desert made a stunning discovery at Qumran. Dubbed the ’12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave,‘ artifacts dated from the 2nd Temple-period found inside attest to the cave’s detection as one of the most exciting finds in recent years.
The discovery is being hailed as a revolutionary moment in Dead Sea Scroll research. It was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the assistance of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Dr. Price is the Executive Director of Liberty University’s Center for Judaic Studies and the Founder and President of World of the Bible Ministries.
Located in the same vicinity as 11 other caves in which the famous Dead Sea Scrolls (the oldest-known example of texts from the Bible written in Hebrew) were discovered decades ago, the cave did not contain any actual scrolls. However, numerous storage jars and lids from 2nd Temple-period (similar to those from other caves which contained scrolls) were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. This proves that the cave once contained Dead Sea Scrolls. Also found there was evidence of deliberate destruction. The damage, together with the discovery of 1950’s-era pickaxe heads (stored in the tunnel for later use), proves that the cave was looted by thieves. The looted scrolls were most likely sold illegally to antiquities dealers.
In a recent interview with Israel21c, Dr. Gutfeld said, “This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. 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 12th cave…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.”
During the 2nd Temple-period, people from the Essene sect relocated to the region from Jerusalem in order to practice a strict adherence to an ascetic form of Judaism. There, they utilized many caves as natural shelters from the tough desert conditions. In time, they hid their sacred documents and vessels inside the caves to escape Roman detection. Preserved by the heat and dry desert air, their discovery thousands of years later provides much of the basis for what we now know regarding the religious and communal practices of Jews who lived during the time of the Temple, as well as during the time of Christ.
The cliffs above Qumran, where a popular Israeli national park is located, contains hundreds of caves-the natural geology of the area makes it possible for visitors to the park to see many from the safety of the ground. Kenes Tours invites you to see for yourselves the inspirational beauty of the desert at the Dead Sea, as well as experience the Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem on your next visit to Israel.
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