More Dead Sea Scrolls Found
The Israeli Antiquities Authority has been working on a race against looters. The remote, inaccessible cliffs near the Dead Sea still contain archaeological treasures. In order to find them before the looters can, the IAA has hired young, adventurous volunteers to rappel down cliffs and enter caves to recover whatever artifacts they could find. Whereas looters would sell the precious artifacts on the black market where they might never be seen again, an official expedition like this can document the provenance of the pieces, clean and protect them and exhibit them to scholars and the public.
There are caves all along the western side of the Dead Sea, stretching some 50 miles. Getting to some of the caves requires rappelling hundreds of feet down sheer cliffs with ravines far below. The operation has produced scenes worthy of an Indiana Jones epic: watch the IAA video in the Times of Israel and see. The team calls one of the locations the “Cave of Horror” due to earlier finds of 40 skeletons inside. They reveal the desperation of Jewish rebels trying to escape the crushing reprisal by Roman armies in the early 2nd century AD.
The work has been going on since 2017 but the IAA announced the results today, March 16, 2021. As reported by the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post and the New York Times, the operation has yielded remarkable artifacts:
- Pieces of scrolls of the Old Testament prophetical books of Nahum and Zechariah
- The mummy of a child they claim was buried 6,000 years ago
- The “world’s oldest basket” they claim is 10,500 years old
- Coins dating from the Bar Kochba Revolt against Rome (132-136 AD)
- Fragments of food and clothing, plus spear points and arrowheads
Biblical Text Fragments
The scroll fragments are the first since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the late 1940s. They hint of more discoveries to come, since only about half of the caves in the Judean wilderness have been surveyed so far. Specialists were able to piece together 11 lines of text from Zechariah 8:16-17, as well as a portion of Nahum 1:5-6. By analyzing the script, experts were able to date the scroll fragments to the end of the first century BC. They were copies of copies preserved through the centuries since the minor prophets composed them in the 5th and 6th centuries BC.
Only one word variation was found in the Zechariah fragment: “streets” instead of “gates.” Since gates were entrances to streets in OT times, the variation is minor. Experts glean important information from variants between different fragments to see how careful the copyists were, and to discern what influences affected language translation over time. They also noted that the Greek copies wrote the name of God in Hebrew, “probably a way to show the importance of the name of God,” explains the Jerusalem Post.
“Some 6,000 years ago, a parent tucked his child in with a blanket for its eternal sleep,” the Times of Israel says. The child, presumably about 12 years old at death, was “exceptionally well preserved” with even its burial cloth evident. “The cloth and other organic materials, including hair and even skin and tendons, were likewise preserved,” the article states of the naturally-mummified body. If the dating is accurate, this skeleton would have to be six millennia older than the skeletons from the Bar Kochba Revolt.
The basket, found buried in another cave, is incredibly pristine for the date they ascribe to it: 10,500 years old. Normally artifacts this old would be long gone. “Organic materials, including parchment, wood, textiles and human or animal bodies, usually do not last that long,” the Jerusalem Post says. “However, the exceptionally dry climate of the Judean Desert preserved thousands of remains to this day.”
Finding the earliest basket known in the world intact is “currently unparalleled worldwide,” the IAA said. The NY Times commented that after cleaning, the basket “looks not unlike one that could be bought at a home furnishing store today.” Indeed, “IKEA would do well to take note of the craftsmanship shown,” the Times of Israel remarked – an astonishing claim, given that they are dating the basket to a thousand years before the invention of pottery. It does not appear that humans were evolving in their intelligent design capabilities.
These finds are exciting and worth following as more caves are searched. We hope they will get to them before the looters do. We know that Biblical archaeologist Randall Price (World of the Bible) has been involved in permitted research in four caves south of the Dead Sea (see his reports) in 2017 to 2019, including a short video of his team’s finds in Cave 53 between 2006 and January 2020. Knowing of some 300 caves in the area, Price has written a March 16 report on the current IAA operation with comments on its importance. Another site worth checking for information is Todd Bolen’s Bible Places Blog.
What would be more appropriate in conclusion than quoting the texts that came to light in the operation? Nahum 1:5-6 (ESV) says,
5 The mountains quake before him;
the hills melt;
the earth heaves before him,
the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
If the scroll fragment had continued, the next line offers the comforting words, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.”
Here is Zechariah 8:16-17 (ESV). It offers a good theme verse for Creation-Evolution Headlines, because this command is what we seek to obey in a world gone mad with materialism and evolutionary myths.
16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.”
God spoke to His people in Israel thousands of years ago, and His everlasting word still speaks to us today.