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Archaeologists given fresh hope in the hunt for more Dead Sea Scrolls



Archaeologists searching for the Dead Sea Scrolls find haul of Hellenistic pottery in 'juicy' cave where they believe remaining sacred texts are hidden

  • Diggers have revealed fresh hope they may discover more sacred scrolls at Cave 53 in Qumran 
  • Dead Sea Scrolls were first unearthed at West Bank site by Bedouins in 1947 
  • Archaeologists talking of giving up on search for more scrolls in January - but new finds spurred them on 

By Sebastian Murphy-bates For Mailonline

Published: 10:14 EST, 4 December 2018 | Updated: 13:20 EST, 4 December 2018

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Archaeologists have been given fresh hope in the search for more Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts after stumbling across 2,000-year-old pottery.

Evangelicals digging at the ancient settlement of Qumran, where the first scrolls  were discovered in 1947, previously thought they had exhausted all discoveries at Cave 53 and had given up on unearthing any more parchments.

But more than seven decades since Bedouin goat herders peered into a cave and found the Jewish separatist texts, archaeologist Randall Price and his team have made a discovery that has encouraged them to keep searching.

Mr Price, a Texan theologian, shared the fruits of his Israeli team's labour with National Geographic as he ploughs on with Hebrew University work some regard as illegal as the site is in the occupied West Bank. 

Oren Gutfeld is pictured at Cave 53 - where he has previously turned up blank parchment that has fuelled hopes for finding more Dead Sea Scrolls 
Oren Gutfeld is pictured at Cave 53 - where he has previously turned up blank parchment that has fuelled hopes for finding more Dead Sea Scrolls 

Oren Gutfeld is pictured at Cave 53 - where he has previously turned up blank parchment that has fuelled hopes for finding more Dead Sea Scrolls 

Pictured: The storage room of an Israeli antique shop in Jerusalem's Old City as evangelicals fuel demand for relics 
Pictured: The storage room of an Israeli antique shop in Jerusalem's Old City as evangelicals fuel demand for relics 

Pictured: The storage room of an Israeli antique shop in Jerusalem's Old City as evangelicals fuel demand for relics 

This Wycliffe New Testament - which was pivotal in translating texts from Latin into common language - is displayed at The Holy Land Experience in Florida 
This Wycliffe New Testament - which was pivotal in translating texts from Latin into common language - is displayed at The Holy Land Experience in Florida 

This Wycliffe New Testament - which was pivotal in translating texts from Latin into common language - is displayed at The Holy Land Experience in Florida 

Digs for the scrolls have been a source of controversy since the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel's opponents argue that searches should not be carried out without Palestinian involvement.

It comes after dig director Oren Gutfeld came across blank rolls of parchment in Cave 53, prompting him to say: 'It was blank - but next time maybe it won't be.' 

The initial find of seven parchments reveled that the scrolls were placed in the cave around AD70 but the oldest date back as far as 300BC. 

After the Israeli government signed the Oslo Accords to transfer territories to Palestinian control in 1993, it launched an urgent survey of archaeological sites it stood to lose.  

One of the sites they mapped was recorded as Cave 53, which caught Price's attention in 2010.

Father Jean-Michel de Tarragon studies archival photographs at Jerusalem's École Biblique after his team led the search for the Dead Sea Scrolls 
Father Jean-Michel de Tarragon studies archival photographs at Jerusalem's École Biblique after his team led the search for the Dead Sea Scrolls 

Father Jean-Michel de Tarragon studies archival photographs at Jerusalem's École Biblique after his team led the search for the Dead Sea Scrolls 

This 1611 publication of the King James Bible is among the relics that are displayed for Christians in America. This is one of only two first editions in existence and is on display in Washington DC
This 1611 publication of the King James Bible is among the relics that are displayed for Christians in America. This is one of only two first editions in existence and is on display in Washington DC

This 1611 publication of the King James Bible is among the relics that are displayed for Christians in America. This is one of only two first editions in existence and is on display in Washington DC

Two years ago archaeologists found blank parchment and broken jars, which they believe is evidence that it housed scrolls - but by January this year they were ready to walk away from the cave, which was looted 40 years ago. 

However on Monday last week Mr Price said that a shallow dig unearthed evidence that his team could be close to finding their 'mother lode'.

'They didn't dig very deep,' he said. 'Our hope is that if we keep digging, we hit the mother lode.' 

The diggers are responding to demand from US evangelicals as relics are shipped to Christian theme parks in Florida.  

The Bedouins who stumbled on the first seven parchments are said to have sold them to two Bethlehem antiquities dealers. 

Cambridge University Library conservator Emma Nichols examines a Hebrew text. the centre  houses 200,000 Jewish manuscripts
Cambridge University Library conservator Emma Nichols examines a Hebrew text. the centre  houses 200,000 Jewish manuscripts

Cambridge University Library conservator Emma Nichols examines a Hebrew text. the centre  houses 200,000 Jewish manuscripts

Stunning images of relics were revealed in National Geographic following last week's finding in Cave 53 
Stunning images of relics were revealed in National Geographic following last week's finding in Cave 53 

Stunning images of relics were revealed in National Geographic following last week's finding in Cave 53 

A Jerusalem scholar got hold of three of the scrolls after a clandestine meeting through a barbed wire fence. 

Then dealer Khalil Iskander Shahin sold the four remaining scrolls to a Syrian archbishop in Jerusalem, who later smuggled them to the US when he feared for their safety during 1949's Arab-Israeli War

But after receiving no buyers at American universities, the scrolls were bought in 1954 by an Israeli archaeologist and they reside in the Israeli wing of the country's national museum in Jerusalem. 

By by the mid-2000s, translators had published most of their findings. Scrolls ranged from apocalyptic treatises to accounts of daily life in the Qumran sect

There were remnants of 230 biblical manuscripts and among them was an almost  complete copy of Isaiah from the Hebrew Bible.  

Archaeologists have braved snakes, sandstorms and armed bandits to hunt for relics since the 19th Century.  

German scholar Konstantin von Tischendorf journeyed through the Sinai desert in 1844 to the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery, St. Catherine's. 

There he encountered the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus, one of the two oldest Christian Bibles.

He rescued the codex from a basket of old parchment that the monastery's monks had planned to burn. 

WHAT ARE THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS?

Discovered between 1946 and 1956, the Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 ancient manuscripts dating back to 2,000 years ago.

The texts include tends of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments and in rare cases entire manuscripts.  

They contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible as well as a range of extra-biblical documents.

The scrolls were found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea in what was then British Mandate Palestine - now the West Bank.

The story goes that in a cave in the dark crevice of a steep rocky hillside, Muhammed hurled a stone into the dark interior and was startled to hear the sound of breaking pots.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include tends of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments (file photo), contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. They also feature a range of extra-biblical documents
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include tends of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments (file photo), contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. They also feature a range of extra-biblical documents

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which include tends of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments (file photo), contain parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. They also feature a range of extra-biblical documents

Venturing inside, the young Bedouin found a mysterious collection of large clay jars in which he found old scrolls, some wrapped in linen and blackened with age.

The texts have since been excavated by archaeologists, who are now racing to digitise their contents before they deteriorate beyond legibility.

The texts are of great historical and religious significance and include the earliest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents, as well as preserving evidence of diversity in late Second Temple Judaism.

Dated to between 408BC and 318AD, they are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment, but with some written on papyrus and bronze.

The scrolls are traditionally divided into three groups.

'Biblical' manuscripts, which are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible comprise 40 per cent of the haul.

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib as he searched for a stray among the limestone cliffs at Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea

The monks were not so willing to part with the parchment once they realised the scholar's excitement.  

Eventually they 'donated' the codex to Russia, but it is disputed s to whether they were pressured.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin sold it to the British Museum in 1933 for the equivalent of nearly half a million US dollars as his dictatorship faced famine. 

Scottish twins Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson have also visited Mount Sinai and in 1892 discovered the Codex Sinaiticus Syriacus translation of the four Gospels, dating back to the 400s.

Lost Gospels that didn't make it into the New Testament were found in the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus in 1896 by Oxford University's Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt. 

  

  

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