Archaeologists are exploring newly-discovered caves near Qumran, in the West Bank, that may hold more Dead Sea Scrolls – a find that will rewrite the history books. The two caves, known as 53b and 53c, lie at the site where the original Dead Sea Scrolls were found. And archaeologists suspect they may contain an ancient religious treasure trove.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a set of 2,000-year-old Hebrew and Aramaic scrolls, discovered 70 years ago in cliffs near the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea Scrolls compromise of 981 manuscripts and approximately 50,000 fragments found in 11 caves.
The ancient manuscripts were written sometime between 150 BC and the Roman conquest in 70 AD by an ascetic sect.
Israel has been the repository for the vast majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls since 1967.
Although no new manuscripts have yet been unearthed, archaeologists have discovered evidence indicating scrolls were stored there, including wrappings and scroll fragments.
“This cave was robbed by Bedouins maybe 40 years ago,” explained head archaeologist Professor Randall Price.
“Fortunately for us, they didn’t dig very deep.
“Our hope is that if we keep digging, we hit the mother lode,” he added.
The Qumran dig is being lead by Liberty University’s Professor Price and Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The pair are part of a team last year that discovered Cave 53, the twelfth such cave of its kind to be found at Qumran
The most exciting evidence for the scrolls since Cave 53b was uncovered in January is a blank piece parchment and storage jars identical to those discovered in other caves at Qumran.
Archaeologists also discovered a bronze cooking pot dating to the first century BC and a nearly intact oil lamp from the Hellenistic-Hasmonean period.
They also spotted pottery including cooking utensils and textile fragments.
“The significance of this discovery involves the new evidence it provides that the caves south of Qumran represent sealed loci, despite the attempts by Bedouin to loot these sites,” Price and Gutfeld wrote in an abstract to a paper for the American Schools for Oriental Research.
“Also significant is the relation of these caves to the Qumran community, and how the scroll cave found in 2017 is associated with the new cave found in 2018,” they added.
All of the pottery found in 53b is yet to be examined and therefore cannot conclusively prove whether More Dead Sea Scrolls were stored there.
The US Museum of the Bible announced last month that five Dead Sea Scroll fragments from its collection were proven forgeries.
In the wake of similar accusations, other global institutions and private collectors are now likewise struggling with how to address their own questionable fragments.