For the first time in 60 years, archaeologists have found new fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a grouping of ancient Jewish religious manuscripts that date back to between the 3rd century B.C.E. and the 1st century C.E. The Israeli Antiquities Authority said that the new portions were discovered while surveying the Judean Desert, east of Jerusalem, in an area known as the “Cave of Horror” that has been named as such because of the skeletons previously discovered there.
The Dead Sea Scrolls have been considered important by historians because they contain the earliest known versions of certain biblical texts. The first scrolls were unearthed during the 1940s and ’50s in the West Bank.
According to the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the newly discovered parchment fragments include text written in Greek from the books of Zechariah and Nahum. These fragments were believed to have been buried during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, which took place between 132 C.E. and 135 C.E. and saw the Jews rise up against the Roman emperor Hadrian amid growing tensions. In total, 80 such fragments were discovered.
Alongside them, scholars also found a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child and a basket dating back to the Neolithic period, the latter of which may count as the oldest known object of its kind.
Experts said that the recently found fragments are of major archaeological significance. “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 affiliated with the Israel Antiquities Authority, told the Associated Press.
Although the fragments mark the first official major Dead Sea Scrolls find in 60 years, scraps of the manuscripts have repeatedly turned up, with some suggesting that they were plundered and passed through the black market. And at times, Dead Sea Scrolls thought of major significance have turned out to be fakes. In 2020, a National Geographic investigation revealed that 16 fragments held by the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. were all modern forgeries.