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New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered in the Cave of Horror

The caves overlooking the Dead Sea and the ancient site of Qumran have given up more of their valuable treasures. It has been more than 60 years since the last of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. That all changed earlier this year. In March of 2021, in a previously searched cave, scientist have discovered additional scroll fragments. In what is known as Cave 8 researchers performed a more detailed and extensive excavation of the cave. Their efforts were not in vain.

Ancient Scrolls
Cave 8 is also known as the Cave of Horror. The name is partially a reference to the cave's location which is in the side of a sheer cliff and can the climb or descent to reach the entrance can be horrifying. Simply reaching the cave is dangerous and not for the faint of heart. The name is also a reference to the fact the remains of 40 Jewish refugees were discovered in the cave when the cave was first explored in the 1960's.  These people are believed to have died here after hiding from the Romans in the cave during the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. Many scholars believe it was during this same time period (132-135 A.D.) that the scrolls were concealed in the caves.


The scrolls, manuscripts and fragments we know of as the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1946. During the following decades the caves were extensively searched and excavated. More scrolls and fragments were discovered, then in the 1960's the discoveries stopped. While no new scrolls or fragments had been discovered in sixty years, archaeologists and other researchers have continued to search the caves. 

The original Dead Sea Scrolls contained more than 900 scrolls as well as some 15,000 fragments. These scrolls contained every book from the Old Testament with the lone exception of the Book of Esther. It is unclear if this was an intentional exclusion or if no copies of Esther survived. It is also possible copies of Esther are still out there, waiting to be found. - Along with the books of the Bible the scrolls also contained many secular writings and letters. The scrolls not only gave us ancient copies of the Old Testament to compare with modern texts, but also provided an insight into the world and lives of the people of the Bible.

Surprising to most, is the fact the discovery of scrolls in 1946 were not the first to be made in these caves. In a letter from an East Syriac Patriarch, Timothy I, it records the story of a Bedouin huntsman who discovered scrolls stored in jars in the caves overlooking the Dead Sea. The year was 790 A.D. Experts were sent from Jerusalem and it was found the scrolls were written in Hebrew and contained several books of the Bible. The scrolls were collected and taken away. Where they were taken or what became of them is a mystery.

The new discovery consists of more nearly 80 pieces of parchments. These have bene confirmed to contain texts from the minor prophets of the Bible, including Zechariah and Nahum. Like similar scrolls found in 1946, these fragments were written in Greek. (Note: most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew.) An analysis of the writing indicates the texts were written by two different scribes. 

It is important to remember that the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have been written, or copied by a Jewish sect whose beliefs are not completely understood. This group was known as the Essenes, and their faith varied somewhat from the traditional Jews in Jerusalem. This may account for some of the minor variations in the text. Scientist point out how important each new discovery is in helping us understand not only the Essenes, but biblical history as well.

The Cave of Horror has produced the first scrolls found in the area in approximately 60 years. The cave, it would seem, had additional secrets to reveal. Along with the scroll fragments researchers also found many other items which are believed to be from the time of the revolt. These artifacts include coins, spearheads, arrowheads, sandals, combs, and various fragments of fabric. The cave then lived up to its nickname as it revealed one final secret.

The excavation revealed the remains of a small child who had been buried in the cave some 6,000 years ago. The girl, between the age of 6 and 12, was placed in a fetal position, wrapped in a cloth, and buried in a shallow grave. The hot and arid conditions in the cave naturally mummified her remains. 

Dead Sea Scrolls

The fragments found were small and revealed no startling new information. The discovery remains important however as it shows there are still more fragments, and potentially entire scrolls, to be discovered. Cave 8 had already been searched and partially excavated, yet more fragments were discovered. The question does not seem to be, are there more scrolls waiting to be found? It is more a question of, how many scrolls remain to be found. 

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