First Dead Sea Scrolls in Decades Found in Cliffhanging Exploit

The first biblical scroll fragments to be found along the Dead Sea in decades were discovered in a Judean Desert cave only reachable by rappelling down a sheer cliff.

The dozens of fragments, written by two different scribes, bore portions from the Book of the 12 Minor Prophets written in Greek, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said in a press release. The authority has been scouring the area in a race against looters, who’ve been lured there since the discovery in the 1940s of the first Dead Sea Scrolls, considered to be the earliest known copies of the Bible.

Finding the new fragments was no small feat. The desert team showed “exceptional courage,” rappelling about 260 feet (80 meters) down to the caves, enduring suffocating dust, and “returning with gifts of immeasurable worth for mankind,” authority director Israel Hasson said in the release.

The team also found a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child wrapped in a cloth and mummified, as well as a large, intact basket dating back 10,500 years, possibly the oldest of its kind in the world, the authority said.

The people who wrote the Dead Sea scrolls hid them in caves along the shore of the Dead Sea, probably about the time the Romans destroyed the biblical Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the year 70. They’re generally attributed to an isolated Jewish sect, the Essenes, that settled in Qumran in the Judean Desert.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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