( Jerusalem Post ) After years of fruitless searches for further Dead Sea scrolls in caves on the cliffs near the historic body of water, archeologists on Wednesday claimed to have evidence of a 12th cave, which once held hidden scrolls from the Second Temple period.
However, after excavating the ancient hollow, located near the sea’s northwestern shore, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers concluded that the additional scrolls were looted by Beduin in the middle of the last century.
The archeologists, including Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the university’s Institute of Archeology – aided by Dr. Randall Price, and students from Liberty University in Virginia – are the first in more than 60 years to have discovered a new scroll cave.
“Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear,” recalled Gutfeld.
“The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery toward the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickax heads from the 1950s, stored within the tunnel for later use, proves the cave was looted.”
Until recently, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained the coveted scrolls.
Scholars say that like “Cave 8,” in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran, standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).
“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years,” said Gutfeld, who directed the dig. “Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave.”