Photos reveal the excavation of a newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls cave

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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

In the more than 800 documents that make up the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are ancient copies of biblical texts, historical commentaries, hymns, recipes, and more.

They provide some of the most detailed knowledge we have about the Second Temple period of history, from about 530 BC to 70 AD, revealing much of the history of Judaism and early Christianity.

And since 1956, we’ve thought that these documents all came from 11 caves in Wadi Qumran, near the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in the Desert of Judea.

But in February of 2016, it was announced that a new Dead Sea Scrolls cave had been discovered.

Here are photos from the archaeologists involved that show the expedition:


Researchers have begun to scour the area for new caves since fragments of valuable scrolls are thought to have appeared on the antiquity black market.

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Fault cliff and cave entrance on the left.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

This was just one of many potential caves, but the researchers involved say they’re certain it held Dead Sea Scrolls, meaning there are at least 12 such caves overall — and there may be more.

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Archaeologists Oren Gutfeld & Ahiad Ovadia survey the cave.
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Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls

Inside, archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Virginia’s Liberty University found a tunnel and iron pickax heads, indicating that the cave had been looted in the 1950s.

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Archaeologist Ahiad Ovadia digs carefully.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Inside, the team found jugs that once held scrolls and a roll of parchment.

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Parchment when removed from jug.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

The parchment was likely being prepared for writing, though it was still unused.

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Parchment that was being processed for writing.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Sifting through what was left, the team found straps that had been used for binding scrolls and various other tools.

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Ziad Abu Ganem and student filter material from cave.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

A decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, helps date the cave.

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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Whatever scrolls were there had been removed, most likely in the mid-20th century.

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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

Flint blades and arrowheads also help establish the time that the cave was used.

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Neolithic flint tools found in cave.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

There were also fragments of cloth that the archaeologists say were used to wrap scrolls.

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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

There may be far more out there in the Qumran cliffs and surrounding areas — the researchers plan to continue investigating.

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Filtering materials from the cave.
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Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld