2,000-Year-Old Biblical Scrolls Uncovered in a ‘Search and Rescue’ Mission

Dozens of 2,000-year-old biblical scroll fragments have been excavated from a cave in the Judean Desert. It has been 60 years since the last discovery of this magnitude. Most of the scroll fragments are Greek translations of the books of Zechariah and Nahum from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets.

They’ve been identified as being written in two scribal hands, and only the name of God is written in Hebrew in the texts. Interestingly, the “new” Greek translation is different from the traditional Masoretic texts, giving us a sense of how language evolved during that time period.

Exploration and adventure in the ‘Cave of Horror’

The ‘search and rescue‘ operation was spearheaded by The Israel Antiquities Authority. So far, some 80 kilometers and 500 caves have been systematically surveyed by three teams led by archaeologists Oriah Amichai, Hagay Hamer, and Haim Cohen.

The scrolls were discovered in what is called the ‘Cave of Horror’, cataloged as Hever Cave 8 of the Judaean Desert, Israel. It got its nickname from the remains of roughly 40 skeletons that were unearthed there. Many of the caves of this region have names, so this is not unusual – the Cave of Letters, and the Cave of Skulls, are two other examples.

“The desert team showed exceptional courage, dedication and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth, digging and sifting through them, enduring thick and suffocating dust, and returning with gifts of immeasurable worth for mankind,” said Israel Antiquities Authority’s director Israel Hasson, who led the widespread rescue operation, in an IAA press release.

Using drones and high-tech rappelling and mountain-climbing gear, the teams have been able to access caves that have been regarded as ‘unreachable’ until now. Some of them had not been entered by a human being for almost two millennia.

Reconstructing ancient texts and paper conservation

The team of archaeologists has reconstructed 11 lines of the scrolls’ Greek texts so far. These 11 mines join 9 from scrolls that were discovered by archaeologist Yochanan Aharoni during their first survey of the Cave of Horrors in 1953. The texts are written in the Paleo-Hebrew script used during the First Temple period.

Source: Bible scroll fragments among dazzling artifacts found in Dead Sea Cave of Horror

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