W.if he takes another closer look, now and then he sees something previously unrecognized. And sometimes makes a historical discovery. First Bedouins and later Israeli archaeologists found the remains of a 2,000-year-old biblical scroll in a cave in the Judean Desert by the Dead Sea around 60 years ago. They left behind the investigated bulk material in this cavern known as the “Cave of Horror”. More than a year ago, this bulk material was examined again in the cave – and another 20 or so scroll fragments were found. The Israel Antiquities Authority presented them on Tuesday in the research department of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Political correspondent for Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan based in Tel Aviv.
In a small, windowless room, the curator Oren Ableman and the conservator Tanya Bitler have initially placed the pieces of parchment, which are often less than one centimeter in size, between the larger scroll fragments known from the cave. Because of their size, the finds did not always allow conclusions to be drawn about their text, says Ableman. But as far as can be recognized, the parchment fragments belong to sections from the Book of the Twelve Prophets, including parts of Nahum’s writings, chapter one, verse five and six, and Zecharyas, chapter eight, verse 16 and 17. In total, the researchers reconstructed eleven lines of text. They have a larger and a smaller handwriting in Greek, the lingua franca of the day. Only the name of God is written in ancient Hebrew. According to the Antiquities Authority, this is the first such finding of biblical text fragments in 60 years.
In the forties and fifties in the same area a few kilometers away in caves near Qumran on the Dead Sea in the West Bank, Bedouin manuscripts were discovered, which are considered to be the oldest biblical text fragments in the world and have largely been preserved due to the desert climate. The copies cover a period between about 300 BC and 100 AD; their authors are unknown. A total of around 900 such scrolls are known, of which, however, little more than a dozen have survived as a partially preserved book scroll.
The “Horror Cave” is named after the discovery of 40 skeletons there, including those of women, children and men. They are presumably refugees from the time of the Jewish Bar Kochba uprising against the Roman governor from around 132 to 135 AD. It was knocked down after initial successes and some of the refugees may have been hiding in this cave. They are said to have starved to death in the course of the Roman siege. Because the cave is located in a steep rock, 80 meters below the summit, on which the remains of a Roman camp were found. So perhaps the Romans simply starved the members of Jewish rebels. Escape seemed hardly possible, in any case the researchers had to abseil from the cliff in order to get into the “cave of horror”. The documents found there were probably written at least 100 years before the Bar Kochba uprising, but perhaps also carried there as a valuable sanctuary by the fleeing insurgents.
Two coins that were found there in 2018 and have now also been presented could prove that the cave that has now been investigated may have been left behind from the time of Bar Kochba. The embossed bronze coins bear Jewish symbols such as the lyre and the date palm, which the chief numismatist Donald Tzvi Ariel described as a symbol of Jerusalem used by the rebels who were no longer to reach the city. Ariel presented other coin finds from other caves in the desert.
The research will continue
The fact that the “cave of horror” must have been known to people long before is shown by the skeleton find, also presented on Tuesday, of a child estimated to be 6000 years old and partially mummified by the dry heat, whose body was once wrapped in cloth. It is probably a girl between six and twelve years old who was carrying remains of cloth in her hand. Part of the hair and skin is also preserved.
The archaeologists also presented an almost completely preserved basket made of woven reeds, which the scientists dated to an age of 10,500 years using the C-14 method. The basket was found in one of the Muraba’at caves a few kilometers north of the “Cave of Horror”. According to the Antiquities Authority, it is the oldest surviving basket in the world. It was found empty, has a volume of 90 to 100 liters, has a lid and is said to have been used for storage.
The agency also published the discovery of spear and arrowheads, a 2000 year old lice comb and a sandal. The finds announced on Tuesday are the result of an operation that has been going on since 2017 with the aim of searching all caves and gorges in the Judean Desert in the West Bank for artefacts in order to forestall any looters. The director general of the antiquities agency, Israel Hasson, called the find a “wake-up call for the state” and solicited further funds for his operation. According to the authorities, a section of the desert over 80 kilometers with caves that are in some cases difficult to access has already been investigated. The research will continue.
#Find #Israel #Eleven #lines #biblical #times