Archaeologists have found two new caves near Qumran in the West Bank that they think may hold some Dead Sea Scrolls. The newly found caves, which are called 53b and 53c, are located close to other caves where some scrolls have already been found.
The previously found Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in twelve caves that were near Qumran and included 900 manuscripts. It is thought that a group of people called Essenes lived in Qumran and that they were the ones who wrote a lot of the scrolls. The Essenes ended up leaving the area around 70 A.D. when a revolt began against the Romans.
The first eleven caves were found between the years 1946 and 1956. Those eleven caves held the majority of the scrolls. The twelfth cave, however, was discovered much later in 2017 and only one blank scroll was found inside. They archaeologists did, however, find jars, textiles, string, and rope that were used to store the scrolls. By finding the remains of items used to store them, but not finding the actual Dead Sea Scrolls, it would indicate that they were more than likely stolen at some point.
The two new caves that have been recently discovered are close in proximity to the twelfth cave and they also contain evidence that indicates scrolls were indeed there in the past. Unfortunately, archaeologists have yet to find any remaining scrolls but they still have a lot of investigating to do.
Inside of cave 53b, researchers found several artifacts from humans visiting the cave years earlier, which included a bronze cooking pot and an oil lamp. In a paper written by archaeologists Randall Price of Liberty University in Virginia and Oren Gutfeld of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, they wrote that researchers found “large amounts of pottery representing store jars, flasks, cups and cooking pots, and fragments of woven textiles, braided ropes and string.”
After analyzing the bronze cooking pot, it was determined that it dates back from between 100 B.C. and 15 B.C. which is also the same time that people were living at the archaeological site of Qumran. Also, the oil lamp that was found in the cave looks quite similar to the lamps that were found at Qumran which would indicate that the people who inhabited the site more than likely used the caves as well.
Price told Live Science, “We have not analyzed all of the pottery from this cave, so we do not know if a scroll jar was present.” But since the rope, string, and textiles found in cave 53b are quite similar to the ones previously found in cave 12, it may have also been used to store the scrolls as well.
As for the second newly found cave, called 53c, researchers found a piece of a scroll jar which indicates that scrolls were stored in that cave at one time. They are currently excavating the cave to see if they can find any evidence of hidden scrolls.