Ever since shepherds discovered numerous clay jugs filled with ancient scrolls near Qumran in the spring of 1947, the caves above the steep bank of the Dead Sea have been considered one of the most important archeological sites.
More than 15,000 of these Qumran texts have now been recovered, including numerous fragments that are still waiting to be deciphered.
A spectacular find that the Israel Antiquities Authority has just presented shows that the caves are good for further surprises.
In an inaccessible cave in Wadi Nachal Chever on the north shore of the sea, dozens of fragments from the Jewish Bible came to light.
It is the first discovery of its kind in 60 years.
View of the Nachal Chever with the Dead Sea in the background
Source: Wikipedia / Tsachior / CC BY-SA 3.0
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It owes its success not least to its inaccessibility.
The scientists, who have been investigating the caves in the area since 2017, had to abseil to get to the entrance in a rock wall about 80 meters below the summit.
In this so-called “Cave of Horror” because of earlier finds, they not only came across the documents, but also a wealth of evidence that the place was used over the millennia: coins, arrowheads, clothing, sandals, louse combs and a lot large basket whose age is dated 10,500 years.
And the 6000 year old mummified remains of a girl.
According to historian Ronit Lupu, the skeleton was found in a shallow pit under two stone slabs.
According to the computed tomography, the child, who is around six to twelve years old, was huddled in it.
The upper body was covered with a piece of fabric.
"Whoever buried the child covered it like parents cover their children," said Lupu.
Because of the special climatic conditions in the cave, the child and the blanket are remarkably well preserved.
"The skin, tendons and even the hair are partially preserved, even though so much time has passed."
The texts have to be reconstructed from these fragments
The fragments of writing could prove to be more important from a cultural and historical point of view.
It has already been possible to identify excerpts from the Book of the Twelve Prophets, for example from the books Zechariah and Nahum.
From the book of Zechariah it says there: “But that is what you are to do: speak truth one to another and judge truthfully and rightly, create peace in your gates;
no one devises evil in his heart against his neighbor, and does not love false oaths;
because I hate all of that, says the Lord. "
The texts are written in Greek.
Radiocarbon analysis point to an emergence in the 2nd century AD. Scientists suspect that the writings were hidden during the Bar Kochba uprising against the Romans between 132 and 136 AD.
This means that the new finds are around 60 years younger than those from the caves at Hirbet Qumran, which were dated to the time of the great Jewish uprising in AD 66 to 70.
Its end marked the conquest of Jerusalem and the razing of the temple by the legions of the Roman general Titus.
The later uprising under the leadership of Simon bar Kochba sparked off by the plan of the emperor Hadrian to establish a Roman colony on the site of the destroyed city.
After the devastating defeat, Jews were banned from entering Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands had lost their lives, "almost all of Judea had been devastated," reports the Roman historian Cassius Dio.
As in the first uprising, Jews had evidently tried to secure their libraries over the Dead Sea from being attacked by the Romans.
Earlier finds in the 1960s had given the cave the name "Cave of Horror" because 40 human skeletons were recovered in it.
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