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


Well-Known Member
Parts of books of Nahum and Zechariah, world’s oldest woven basket, 6,000-year-old mummified child, Bar Kochba Revolt coins among stunning finds from daring Judean Desert rescue op

In a stunningly rare discovery, dozens of 2,000-year-old biblical scroll fragments have been excavated from Judean Desert caves during a daring rescue operation. Most of the newly discovered scroll fragments — the first such finds in 60 years — are Greek translations of the books of Zechariah and Nahum from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, and are written in two scribal hands. Only the name of God is written in Hebrew in the texts.

The fragments from the Prophets have been identified as coming from a larger scroll that was found in the 1950s, in the same “Cave of Horror” in Nahal Hever, which is some 80 meters (260 feet) below a cliff top. According to an Israel Antiquities Authority press release, the cave is “flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.”

Along with the “new” biblical scroll fragments from the Books of the Minor Prophets, the team excavated a huge 10,500-year-old perfectly preserved woven basket — the oldest complete basket in the world — and a 6,000-year-old mummified skeleton of a child, tucked into its blanket for a final sleep.

Since 2017, the IAA has spearheaded an unprecedented rescue operation to salvage ancient artifacts from caves throughout the Judean Desert against the rampant looting that has occurred in the area since the much-heralded — and lucrative — discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by Bedouin shepherds some 70 years ago. On Tuesday morning, a sample of the dazzling discoveries were unveiled for the first time.

"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.

"The newly discovered scroll fragments are a wake-up call to the state. Resources must be allocated for the completion of this historically important operation. We must ensure that we recover all the data that has not yet been discovered in the caves before the robbers do. Some things are beyond value,” Hasson said.

In an optimistic attempt to be one step ahead of looters, the inter-departmental national project was launched in 2017 to survey Judean Desert caves. A few promising caves were subsequently excavated at some colorfully named locations, including the Cave of Horror — where over 40 skeletons have thus far been uncovered — and the Cave of Skulls. About 20 more promising caves could be excavated in the next stage of the operation, provided the budget is allocated.

The operation was undertaken by the IAA, in cooperation with the Staff Officer of the Archaeology Department of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, and funded by the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage. About half of the Judean Desert, including the original source of most of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, is located in the West Bank beyond the Green Line.

"For years we chased after antiquities looters. We finally decided to pre-empt the thieves and try reaching the artifacts before they were removed from the ground and the caves,” said Amir Ganor, head of the IAA’s Theft Prevention Unit.

So far, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) and 500 caves have been systematically surveyed by three teams led by IAA archaeologists Oriah Amichai, Hagay Hamer and Haim Cohen. Ganor estimates that about 25 percent of the Judean Desert has not yet been surveyed. Using drones and high-tech rappelling and mountain-climbing gear, archaeologists and a team of volunteers from pre-military academies have been able to access many hitherto “unreachable” caves — some of which hadn’t been entered by a human being for almost two millennia.

The biblical scrolls are among the highlights of the newly excavated artifacts, but are by no means the only extraordinary discoveries:

‘New’ biblical scrolls

Looters and archaeologists alike have combed the Judean Desert since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls some 70 years ago. Aside from two silver scrolls engraved with the biblical Priestly Blessing (from the late 7th to early 6th century BCE) discovered in Ketef Hinnom in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea Scrolls are considered the earliest known copies of the biblical books and span from circa 400 BCE to 300 CE.

The latest identified finds, two dozen 2,000-year-old biblical scroll fragments from the books of Zechariah and Nahum, were discovered in clumps and rolled up in the Cave of Horror. The conservation and study of the fragments was conducted by the IAA’s Dead Sea Scrolls Unit under Tanya Bitler, Dr. Oren Ableman and Beatriz Riestra.

The team has so far reconstructed 11 lines of Greek text that was translated from Zechariah 8:16–17, as well as verses from Nahum 1:5–6. They join nine, much more extant fragments that were discovered by Yochanan Aharoni, who first surveyed the Cave of Horrors in 1953.

On the new fragments, as well as in the Greek translation scroll discovered by Aharoni, only the name of God appears in Hebrew. It is written in the Paleo-Hebrew script used during the First Temple period, as well as by some adherents of the Bar Kochba revolt (132–136 CE), including on coinage, and in the Qumran community.

Among the academic fruit already born of the new discovery is the realization that the “new” Greek translation is different from the traditional Masoretic texts.

“These differences can tell us quite a bit regarding the transmission of the biblical text up until the days of the Bar Kochba Revolt, documenting the changes that occurred over time until reaching us in the current version,” said the IAA.

Full article (long read):
Last edited:


Freed By Christ to Serve Christ
Randall Price has a good article on this:

"The scroll fragments, however, come from the time of the Second Jewish Revolt under Bar Kokhba (AD /CE 132-136) when the cave was used to hide Jewish soldiers and/or families from the Romans. The finds are consistent with such a residential cave, including the Scroll of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) they had in their possession."