12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Discovered

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February 12, 2017

The number of caves that once contained Dead Sea Scrolls is now 12, after a discovery announced by Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

The Scrolls, which were discovered by accident, are thought to have been written during a period of a few hundred years, from the 3rd Century B.C. to the 1st Century A.D. Most scholars think that the writers belonged to ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes. (This belief has been challenged in recent years, however.)

The Scrolls now reside in the hands of a select Jewish scholars, as part of a display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and in an online exhibit.

Archaeologists from Hebrew University found no scrolls remaining in the Qumran cave near the other 11 but did find evidence that the 12th cave did contain such scrolls at one point. Among what was found are fragments of clay storage jars into which the scrolls were placed, textiles for scroll wrapping and leather straps for binding, just as in the other caves, which have yielded about 900 scrolls and fragments in the 70 years since they were discovered.

Also among the things found in the 12th cave were heads of 1950s pickaxes, which archaeologists suggested was evidence of looting. A tunnel in the back of the cave also suggested that looting had taken place.

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