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New Dead Sea Scrolls Found in Israel’s Cave of Skulls

Israeli news outlet Haaretz has reported that archaeologists working on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Israel’s Hebrew University have discovered fragments of ancient scrolls believed to part of the famed Dead Sea Scrolls. The fragments were found in the awesomely-named Cave of Skulls, a remote cave found deep within the Judean Desert. The cave got its name from the fact that ancient human remains have been found within; other nearby caves include the Cave of Arrows and the Cave of Scrolls (I’ll let you guess what was found within those).

The Cave of Skulls. Not pictured: Indiana Jones.

The Cave of Skulls. Not pictured: Indiana Jones.

The tiny scroll fragments measure just two centimeters square and, unfortunately, are too damaged and faded for the text on them to be interpreted and analyzed. In fact, researchers are still unable to determine in which language the scrolls were written. Aside from that frustrating fact, archaeologists are still optimistic about the discovery. Hebrew University archaeologist Uri Davidovich believes these tiny fragments could help researchers piece together the ancient puzzle of the mysterious Dead Sea Scrolls:

The most important thing that can come out of these fragments is if we can connect them with other documents that were looted from the Judaean Desert, and that have no known provenance.

Discovery of other scroll fragments has been hampered by the efforts of looters, who have been known to sell similar fragments on the black market. Researchers actually used those black market fragments as evidence for the theory that there might be more undiscovered scrolls lying in the desert; that theory, in part, led to the discovery of these new fragments.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the most important historical artifacts in the Hebrew-language religious canon.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the most important historical artifacts in the Hebrew-language religious canon.

Along with the minuscule scroll fragments, the archaeologists found wooden and bone tools, clothing, textiles, needles, and pottery fragments. One of the more interesting finds is a collection of beads wrapped in fabric – one of only three such bundles discovered which date to before the Copper Age.

The warm, arid climate of the Judaean desert is perfect for preserving ancient artifacts.

The warm, arid climate of the Judaean desert is perfect for preserving ancient artifacts.

The original Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 when a Bedouin shepherd accidentally fell into a cave where the scrolls were hidden. Since then, many more fragments have been found in similar desert caves. Most of the scrolls are written in Hebrew or Aramaic and contain Hebrew scriptures, historical manuscripts, and ancient tribal codes.