Ancient Skeletons Discovered in West Bank Cave May Solve 2,000-Year-Old Biblical Mystery

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Dozens of skeletons found within the Judean Desert could lastly reveal who wrote the well-known Dead Sea Scrolls, a thriller that scientists and historians have been making an attempt to resolve for greater than 50 years. The scrolls include fragments from practically each a part of the Old Testament.

The 33 human skeletons had been discovered buried at Qumran, close to the caves the place the scrolls had been initially found (they’re alternately often known as the Qumran Caves Scrolls). The individuals they belonged to could have been alive when the texts had been written and positioned contained in the caves; they may probably be the authors themselves.

Researchers have already carried out a radiocarbon evaluation on one of many bones and estimate that it’s about 2,200 years previous, which strains up with the timeframe wherein the scrolls are believed to have been written (roughly 150 B.C. to 70 A.D.). Yossi Nagar, an anthropologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority who helped the researchers badyze the skeletons, offered the findings November 16 at an annual badembly of the American Schools of Oriental Research.

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RTX5ORG Sections of the traditional Dead Sea scrolls on show in Jerusalem. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

“I don’t know if these were the people who produced the Qumran region’s Dead Sea Scrolls,” Nagar informed Science News. “But the high concentration of adult males of various ages buried at Qumran is similar to what has been found at cemeteries connected to Byzantine monasteries.”

The Dead Sea Scrolls had been recovered from 11 caves within the West Bank between the late 1940s and the mid 1950s, after first being found in a single cave by a shepherd. They comprise a whole lot of paperwork and 1000’s of fragments; the authenticity of some has been debated over time. 

The query of who wrote them is remained intently tied to the query of who precisely the Qumran inhabitants had been. One principle—to which the skeletons would possibly lend credence—is that Qumran was populated by a celibate Jewish sect known as the Essenes, who both wrote the manuscript themselves or served as their custodians (the scrolls had been written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). Other doable explanations embrace Qumran being a group of Bedouin herders and even Roman troopers. Nagar informed Science News he can’t verify the skeletons belonged to Essenes, however that on the very least they in all probability got here from celibate males.

Qumran-caves-520 The Dead Sea Scrolls remained hidden in caves for practically 2,000 years. Smithsonian

The skeletons had been initially found in 2016. Subsequent evaluation has proven that every one the our bodies buried on the Qumran cemetery had been almost definitely male. Three of the skeletons had been too badly degraded to guess in the event that they’d been genetically male or feminine, however Nagar concluded that the opposite 30 had been both conclusively male or at the very least confirmed no indicators of being feminine.

Jonathan Rosenbaum, a professor of Jewish Studies at Gratz College in Melrose Park, Penn, informed Science News that DNA evaluation ought to be capable of verify that almost all or all the skeletons had been male. Nagar, nonetheless, wasn’t positive if there have been plans within the works to take DNA samples. For now, after the removing of some small bones samples, the skeletons have been reinterred within the graves wherein they had been discovered.

A 12th cave was reported in September 2017. No scrolls had been discovered inside, which in itself was a big discovery; it meant the scrolls had sooner or later been looted. “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,” excavation director Oren Gutfeld of the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology mentioned in a press release. “Finding this additional scroll cave means 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.”

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