Israeli experts announce discovery of more Dead Sea scrolls

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli archaeologists announced Tuesday the discovery of dozens of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with a biblical text found in a desert cave and believed to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago.

The parchment fragments have lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum and have been dated to around the 1st century according to the writing style, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. They are the first new scrolls found in archaeological excavations in the desert south of Jerusalem in 60 years.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the 3rd century BC. Until the 1st century AD. They include the first known copies of biblical texts and documents that describe the beliefs of a poorly understood Jewish sect.

The roughly 80 new pieces are believed to belong to a set of parchment fragments found at a site in southern Israel known as the “Cave of Horror,” named after the 40 human skeletons found there during excavations. in the 1960s, they also contain a Greek text. interpretation of the Twelve Minor Prophets, a book of the Hebrew Bible. The cave is located in a remote canyon about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Jerusalem.

The artifacts were found during an operation in Israel and the occupied West Bank by the Israel Antiquities Authority to find scrolls and other artifacts to prevent possible looting. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war and international law prohibits the removal of cultural property from the occupied territory. The authority held a press conference Tuesday to reveal the discovery.

The fragments are believed to have been part of a scroll hidden in the cave during the Bar Kochba revolt, an armed Jewish uprising against Rome during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, between 132 and 136. Coins minted by rebels and arrowheads found elsewhere caves in the region also come from that period.

“We found a textual difference that is unparalleled by any other manuscript, neither in Hebrew nor in Greek,” said Oren Ableman, a researcher on the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Antiquities Authority. He referred to slight variations in the Greek translation from the original Hebrew compared to the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek made in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. C.

“When we think of the biblical text, we think of something very static. It was not static. There are slight differences and some of those differences are important, ”said Joe Uziel, head of the Dead Sea Scrolls unit at the antiquities authority. “Every little information we can add, we can understand a little better” how the biblical text came to its traditional Hebrew form.

Alongside artifacts from the Roman era, the exhibit included much older discoveries of no less importance found during his sweep of more than 500 caves in the desert: the mummified skeleton of a 6,000-year-old boy, an immense complete woven basket from the Neolithic Period, estimated at 10,500 years, and dozens of other delicate organic materials preserved in the arid climate of the caves.

In 1961, the Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni excavated the “Cave of Horror” and his team found nine parchment fragments belonging to a scroll with texts of the Twelve Minor Prophets in Greek and a piece of Greek papyrus.

Since then, no new texts have been found during archaeological excavations, but many have turned up on the black market, apparently looted from caves.

Over the past four years, Israeli archaeologists have launched a major campaign to explore caves located in the rugged canyons of the Judean Desert for scrolls and other rare artifacts. The goal is to find them before looters disturb remote sites, destroying archaeological strata and data in search of antiquities destined for the black market.

So far, the search had only found a handful of parchment scraps that had no text.

Amir Ganor, head of the antiquities theft prevention unit, said that since the start of the operation in 2017 there has been virtually no looting of antiquities in the Judean desert, calling the operation a success.

“For the first time in 70 years, we were able to get ahead of the looters,” he said.


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