Archaeologists in Israel announced on Tuesday they discovered dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments that contain biblical text. The fragments were recovered in a desert cave and “believed hidden by Jewish refugees during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,9000 years ago,” according to Fox News.
“The newly found fragments of parchment bear lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum and have been radiocarbon dated to the second century A.D., according to the Israel Antiquities Authority,” Fox News reports.
Experts were able to interpret 11 lines of text from Zechariah, including the verses: “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate — declares the Lord,” The New York Times reports.
The original Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1940s and 50s in caves and date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. They are widely considered to be the oldest biblical texts scholars currently have access to.
The recently discovered scroll fragments are the first to be found in the desert south of Jerusalem in 60 years. “The scrolls were retrieved from the Cave of Horror in the Judean Desert reserve of Nahal Hever, about 80 meters below the cliff top, by clinging to ropes, in excavations which started in 2017,” Fox News reports.
“The desert team showed exceptional courage, dedication, and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth,” said Israel Hasson, the departing director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is the custodian of some 15,000 fragments of the scrolls.
The Associated Press offered more information about the location of the fragments. “The roughly 80 new pieces are believed to belong to a set of parchment fragments found in a site in southern Israel known as the ‘Cave of Horror’ — named for the 40 human skeletons found there during excavations in the 1960s — that also bear a Greek rendition of the Twelve Minor Prophets, a book in the Hebrew Bible.”
“We found a textual difference that has no parallel with any other manuscript, either in Hebrew or in Greek,” Oren Ableman, a Dead Sea Scroll researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said.
“When we think about the biblical text, we think about something very static. It wasn’t static. There are slight differences and some of those differences are important,” Joe Uziel, head of the antiquities authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls unit, said. “Every little piece of information that we can add, we can understand a little bit better.”
The excavations also turned up rare coins from approximately 2,000 years ago, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a mummified child, and what may be the oldest surviving basket in the world, made of woven reeds, according to the Daily Wire.
“The basket, complete with lid, is more than 10,500 years old, based on radiocarbon dating by Professor Elisabetta Boaretto of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, the IAA said,” Fox News reports.