Newly discovered ancient manuscripts from Dead Sea Scroll caves
An archaeologist has announced a remarkable finding at the International Research Seminar, History of the Caves of Qumran, which was held in Lugano, Switzerland – nine scrolls dating back 2,000 years containing Biblical text which were found in the Qumran caves, the famous caves that yielded the Dead Sea Scrolls over seven decades ago. The scrolls were found hidden inside three leather phylacteries, pouches traditionally carried by observant Jewish men.
According to reports, the leather pouches were first pulled out of the Qumran caves in the 1950s, but were never examined or analysed until Yonatan Adler, an archaeologist from Ariel University, was working on materials from the old archaeological excavations and found the phylacteries. Using latest technology, including multispectral imaging carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), it is now possible to view the text on the ancient scrolls.
“I am very proud that in our laboratory, using the most advanced technologies, we can reconstruct the history of two thousand years ago,” said Pnina Shor, Head of the laboratory for conservation of the IAA.
Qumran was a town inhabited by an Essene community on the western shore of the Dead Sea, in the West Bank, near the ruins of Jericho. The site was built between 150 BC and 130 BC and saw various phases of occupation. The town became famous in 1947 when a Bedouin shepherd unearthed the first of nearly 900 texts, which became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Two Dead Sea scrolls in situ in the Qumran Caves. Photo credit: Wikipedia
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a set of approximately 930 manuscripts – 750 in Hebrew, 150 in Aramaic and a small number in Greek – written on animal-skin parchments which contain some of the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and are said to be the greatest archaeological find in history. The scrolls have been dated from the late third century BC to the first century AD and were discovered in a series of 11 caves near Qumran in the years 1947-1956.
The ancient and priceless texts have been dubbed "the academic scandal of the 20th century" because of the long delay in publication, which many have claimed is due to the controversial nature of its contents. The manuscripts shed unprecedented light on Judaism around the turn of the era, at the time when Christianity was born, and some of the contents conflict with the accounts contained in the New Testament. Only 20% of the texts were published upon their discovery; the other 80% remained locked away in a secret vault at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem for about 35 years, causing fury among archaeologists.
The nine ‘newly found’ documents are from caves 4 and 5 and were excavated in 1952 by the archaeologist Roland de Vaux. Considering the academic scandal concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls, one has to wonder if they really have just been rediscovered or whether they too have been protected and hidden away. The content of the text has not yet been released.
Featured image: The Qumran Caves. Photo credit: Wikipedia