On Tuesday, Israeli experts announced their recent findings of new, additional Dead Sea Scroll fragments that include biblical text. Dozens of the scrolls were found in a cave in the desert and are believed to have been hidden there almost 1,900 years ago.
The Associated Press reports that the pieces of parchment include Greek writings from the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The Israel Antiquities Authority has dated the findings around the first century due to the type of writing that can be seen on the scrolls. These are the first scrolls to be discovered in 60 years during the archaeological excavations in the region. Since 1961, no new writings have been found in any of the excavations by archaeologists. However, a number of scrolls have been up for sale on the black market, and those are assumed to have been stolen from the area.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were Jewish writings found in the 1940s and 1950s by experts in the West Bank close to Qumran. They were dated from between the first century and third century.
The new findings include around 80 pieces and are considered to perhaps be part of a previous group of writings that were discovered in the “Cave of Horror” about 25 miles south of Jerusalem. The cave got its name from the 40 human skeletons that were discovered there when archaeologists were digging in the area in the 1960s.
That set also includes a Greek version of the Twelve Minor Prophets, a book in the Hebrew Bible.
Experts believe that the pieces were part of a scroll that was put away in the cave during the Bar Kochba Revolt, which was an uprising of the Jews against Rome while Emperor Hadrian ruled the empire from 132 to 136.
On Tuesday, the Israel Antiquities Authority held a press conference in order to announce the findings and explain the ways the new scrolls can be used to shed light on ancient questions.
“We found a textual difference that has no parallel with any other manuscript, either in Hebrew or in Greek,” said Oren Ableman, a Dead Sea Scroll researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority. He referred to slight variations in the Greek rendering of the Hebrew original compared to the Septuagint — a translation of the Hebrew Bible to Greek made in Egypt in the third and second centuries B.C.
Joe Uziel, head of the antiquities authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls unit, said, “When we think about the biblical text, we think about something very static. It wasn’t static. There are slight differences and some of those differences are important…Every little piece of information that we can add, we can understand a little bit better” how the Biblical text became the traditional Hebrew.
In addition to the fragments, the exhibit showed other more ancient findings that were found, including “the 6,000-year-old mummified skeleton of a child, an immense, complete woven basket from the Neolithic period, estimated to be 10,500 years old, and scores of other delicate organic materials preserved in caves’ arid climate.”
Israeli archaeologists have pushed forward to create a more focused approach on researching caves in the Judean Desert in order to find additional scrolls or ancient objects. The goal is to hopefully discover the rare pieces before thieves reach the areas and destroy precious information and clues about the past.
Head of the antiquities theft prevention unit, Amir Ganor, said that there has been essentially no plundering in the region since the concerted excavation efforts began in 2017. “For the first time in 70 years, we were able to preempt the plunderers,” he said.