6,000-year-old child skeleton also found in Judean Desert cave. It is the first such discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 and the early 1950s.
Some 1,900 years ago, Jewish refugees fleeing the Romans made their way to the Judean Desert. Among the belongings they carried with them were scrolls featuring the biblical books of Zechariah and Nahum. Two millennia later, fragments of those texts have reemerged, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Tuesday.
It is the first such discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 and the early Fifties.
In recent decades, the caves have been targeted by looters eager to find artifacts to sell on the private market. For this reason, a few years ago, the IAA, in cooperation with the Civil Administration’s Archaeology Department, launched a rescue operation to survey all the caves in the area.
The findings, which include not only the biblical fragments, but also dozens of artifacts dating back as early as 10,000 years ago, have been astounding.
“More than 80 fragments of different sizes have been uncovered, some of them carrying text, some not,” Dr. Oren Ableman from the IAA Dead Sea Scroll Unit told The Jerusalem Post.
“Based on the script, we dated them to the end of the first century BCE, which means that by the time it was brought to the cave, the scroll was already a century old.”
The researchers ascertained that the artifacts matched other fragments uncovered several decades ago and preserved at the IAA laboratory. They belonged to a scroll featuring the biblical Book of Zechariah, written in Greek, except for God’s name, which was marked in paleo-Hebrew.
“This was probably a way to show the importance of the name of God,” Ableman said.
The new discovery is particularly groundbreaking because one of the excerpts that was deciphered presents a version of Zechariah that was never encountered before, he said.
Verses 16 and 17 of the eighth chapter of Zechariah read: “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.”
In the fragment, the word “gates” is replaced by the word “streets.”
“We had never seen this before,” Ableman said.
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