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Israeli experts discover 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls

March 16, 2021

The fragments of the biblical texts are believed to have been stashed away in a cave during an armed Jewish uprising against Rome.

A restorer works on fitting pieces of the original Dead Sea Scrolls in place
A restorer works on fitting pieces of the original Dead Sea Scrolls in placeImage: picture-alliance/dpa/EPA/J. Hollander

Israeli archaeologistson Tuesday said dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text and hidden nearly 1,900 years ago have been discovered in a desert cave.

The parchment fragments are the first new scrolls found in archaeological excavations south ofthe city of Jerusalem in the last 60 years.

What have archeologists found?

The artifacts have been radiocarbon dated to the 2nd century AD, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The lines of Greek text on the fragments come from the biblical books of Zechariah and Nahum.

The fragments are believed to have been hidden during the Bar Kochba Revolt, an armed uprising against Rome during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, between 132 and 136 AD.

"For the first time in approximately 60 years, archaeological excavations have uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll," the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said in a statement. 

The fragments also include passages written in Greek from the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, which is part of the Hebrew Bible.

One fragment, from the book of Zechariah, reads: "These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates."

While the text is in Greek, the name of God is written in ancient Hebrew script, the IAA said.

How the latest pieces were discovered

The relics were found in an operation in the Judean Desert to find scrolls and other artifacts to prevent possible plundering.

The archaeologists used drones, mountain climbing gear, and abseiling equipment to search caves during the failed revolt.

They found the fragments in a site known as "The Cave of Horror," so named because of the 40 human skeletons found there during excavations in the 1960s.

Markus Reindel on archeology

What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea.

They include some 900 manuscripts found between 1947 and 1956.

The scrolls date from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD and include the earliest known copies of biblical texts. The documents are also considered to be of use in outlining the beliefs of a little-understood Jewish sect.

rc/rt (AFP, AP)