Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Discovered, but Someone Got There First

Looters got there 70 years before researchers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 9, 2017 3:20 AM CST
Looted Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Uncovered
An Israeli student of archaeology works near the remains of a cave found at the West Bank archaeological site of Qumran, near the Dead Sea.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

Israeli researchers have discovered what they believe is the first new Dead Sea Scrolls cave uncovered in more than 60 years—but looters got there long before them. The site at the Qumran cliffs, an Israeli-controlled site in the West Bank, has yielded artifacts including pieces of pottery, broken scroll storage jars, and even an unbroken jar containing a scroll, though researchers later found it was blank, CNN reports. Clues including old pickaxes have led the Hebrew University team to believe that the site was ransacked in the 1940s or 1950s by looters who made off with ancient scrolls.

There is "no doubt we have a new scroll cave," Oren Gutfeld, chief archaeologist on the dig, tells the Times of Israel. "Only the scrolls themselves are not there." Researchers believe the scrolls looted from the cave were sold on the black market many years ago, possibly as long ago as 1947. Gutfeld says the discovery of the cave upends the theory that the scrolls were held in only 11 caves, because this was definitely a 12th. His team plans to survey more of the hundreds of caves in the area in the hope of finding more of the scrolls, which held ancient religious and historical writings. (Israeli authorities busted a gang that was trying to steal an ancient comb from a cave in the area.)

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