New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered: Archaeologists Excited to Unearth Two New Fragments in the Cave of Skulls

New Dead Sea Scrolls Discovered: Archaeologists Excited to Unearth Two New Fragments in the Cave of Skulls

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The Dead Sea Scrolls are a set of nearly 1,000 manuscripts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and ancient Greek, which contain some of the oldest known versions of the Hebrew Bible and are said to be one of the greatest archaeological finds in history. Now, two more pieces of Dead Sea Scrolls and some textile wrapped around a bundle of beads have been found in the Cave of the Skulls in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea.

The scroll fragments have yet to be deciphered because the writing on them is so faint, but it is possible that they will add new, previously unknown information about the life of Jesus. Researchers from Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority say they still are unsure whether the writing is in Hebrew, Aramaic or a completely different dialect altogether.

The pieces of papyrus are about 2 by 2 cm (0.78 by 0.78 of an inch) and others are fragmentary. Some have writing, some do not have discernible writing, says Haartez in an article about the find.

Archaeologists renewed explorations of the cave in May and June 2016 after Roman and Iron Age documents started being sold on the black market.

Caves in the Judean Desert where the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered ( CC 2.0 )

“The most important thing that can come out of these fragments is if we can connect them with other documents that were looted from the Judean Desert, and that have no known provenance," Dr. Uri Davidovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told Haaretz.

Some of the 870 Dead Sea Scrolls found in past years showed clear writing, but others are more difficult to decipher and are still being analyzed. The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls was found in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd who tossed a rock into a cave near Qumran and heard a jar cracking, Haaretz says. The shepherd went into the cave and found documents that came to be called the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The War Scroll, an earlier find, in a photograph by Eric Maton. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Archaeologist Yohanan Ahranoi discovered the Cave of the Skulls in 1960. It was named for the seven human skulls and other bones in it. It is one of several caves that comprise a large cave complex of natural spaces on a steep cliff alongside the Tze’elim stream in the desert.

Nearby is the Cave of the Arrows where 30-inch arrow shafts plus iron arrowheads about 1,800 years old were located. Extremely dry conditions in the Judean Desert help preserve even organic objects.

Also nearby is the Cave of the Scrolls, where early documents dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt have been unearthed.

People have occupied the caves on and off from prehistoric times until the period when Rome ruled Judea. Many of the finds made during the latest period are fragmentary and may have been from secondary dumps by looters.

Earlier finds in the cave include fragments of textiles, rope, leather items, wooden artifacts and bone tools. Pieces of a wooden lice comb dating to the Bar Kokhba revolt also were found there, Haaretz reports.

Supplementing the organic finds are pottery shards, stone vessels and flint objects. Metal objects included needles and hollow-headed hobnails for use on sandals.

From 1948 to 1956 researchers found 80 intact scrolls and more than 20,000 fragments in 11 caves of Qumran. Every book of the Bible’s Old Testament except Esther are represented in the scrolls and fragments. Jews of ancient times used jars of this kind to store manuscripts on parchment, copper and papyrus. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The most recent textile bundle containing beads has not been opened but was x-rayed to ascertain what is inside. This bundle joins two others that Dr. Aharoni found. It is the biggest cache of beads in the Levant from the Chalcolithic period, which predates the Copper Age.

Unfortunately, looters digging in the caves have upset the layers so much it is hard to determine exactly when some artifacts and objects date from.

The findings of remains of thousands of food items, including palm dates, olives, pomegranates and barley and wheat back up professional estimates that the caves’ use by humans dates to the Chalcolithic and by rebelling refugees during the Roman era more than 2,000 years ago.

Uri Davidovich, one of the excavation directors, told Haaretz: “We have all the reasons to believe that there are still scrolls hidden. Several documents from the Roman times and even from the Iron Age have surfaced in recent years in the antiquities market. They must have originated in the Judean Desert caves.”

See this site , the Digital Dead Sea Scrolls, to view images of the Dead Sea Scrolls and learn about the information they contain.

70 years after Dead Sea Scrolls were found, new discoveries await

In 1947, or late 1946, the first batch of Dead Sea Scrolls was found in a cave located near the site of Qumran in what is now the West Bank. These bits of biblical history continue to perplex archaeologists to this day.

Not only are there still unanswered questions about the 2,000-year-old scrolls, but scientists continue to find fragments of the scrolls and other related artifacts.

The Dead Sea Scrolls include early copies of the Hebrew Bible, along with a vast assortment of other texts, such as calendars, astronomical information and community rules. There is even one text, inscribed on copper, that discusses the location of buried treasure. [Gallery of Dead Sea Scrolls: A Glimpse of the Past]

A young bedouin shepherd named Muhammed ed-Dib is usually credited with having discovered the first batch of scrolls, which included a fragment of the Book of Isaiah. The exact date of the discovery is not known, and there are variations in the story of how ed-Dib found the first scrolls. (In many of the stories, ed-Dib was searching for lost sheep when he came across a cave containing the scrolls.)

In the time after ed-Dib&rsquos discovery, thousands of additional fragments were uncovered in a series of 11 caves located near Qumran. Some of these fragments were found by the bedouin who, in turn, sold them to an antiquities dealer named Khalil Iskander Shahin in Bethlehem. Other fragments were found in a series of archaeological excavations conducted in the 11 caves between 1949 and 1956.

The identity of the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls is a source of debate among scholars. Many believe that at least some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written by people who belonged to a sect called the Essenes and that this sect used Qumran as a sort of monastery.

Trending News

After 1956, more scrolls were discovered at other caves located in the Judaean Desert.

On Tuesday, Israeli researchers unveiled dozens of newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments containing biblical texts dating back nearly 2,000 years.

“Have they been carbon dated?” “No.” [talking] “We’re here where we discovered, for the first time in over 50 years, new fragments of biblical texts for the Dead Sea region. We found, specifically we found fragment, one fragment from the Book of Zechariah.” “A basket and the scrolls were both found during a very big project led by I.A.A. to survey all the caves in the Judaean desert. After a lot of years of that, looters are coming in the caves to loot all the amazing stuff: coins, basketry, clothes and scrolls, of course.”

JERUSALEM — Israeli researchers unveiled on Tuesday dozens of newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments containing biblical texts dating back nearly 2,000 years, adding to the body of artifacts that have shed light on the history of Judaism, early Christian life and ancient humankind.

The parchment fragments, ranging from just a few millimeters to a thumbnail in size, are the first in about 60 years to have been unearthed in archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert. They were found as part of a four-year Israeli national project to prevent further looting of antiquities from the remote caves and crevices of the desert east and southeast of Jerusalem, which straddles the boundary of Israel and the occupied West Bank.

The project turned up many other rare and historic finds, including a large woven basket with a lid that has been dated to approximately 10,500 years ago and may be the oldest such intact basket in the world. The archaeologists also found a 6,000-year-old, partially mummified skeleton of a child buried in the fetal position and wrapped in a cloth.

“The desert team showed exceptional courage, dedication and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth,” said Israel Hasson, the departing director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is the custodian of some 15,000 fragments of the scrolls.

He added in a statement that their work in the caves involved “digging and sifting through them, enduring thick and suffocating dust, and returning with gifts of immeasurable worth for mankind.”

The Dead Sea Scrolls, mostly discovered during the last century, contain the earliest known copies of parts of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible, other than the Book of Esther, written on parchment and papyrus.

Dating from about the third century B.C. to the first century A.D., the biblical and apocryphal texts are widely considered to be among the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century and remain the subject of heated academic debate around the world.

The arid conditions of the Judean Desert provided a unique environment for the natural preservation of artifacts and organic materials that would ordinarily not have withstood the test of time.

The latest fragments come from a scroll that was first discovered in the so-called Horror Cave, south of Ein Gedi in Israeli territory. Written in Greek by two scribes, it dates from the period of the Bar Kokhba revolt, almost 1,900 years ago, when Jewish rebels fled with their families and hid from the Romans in the caves.

The Romans discovered and besieged the refugees in the Horror Cave until they starved to death there. The first archaeologists to arrive in the last century found their skulls and bones placed in baskets in the cavern.

The new fragments contain verses from Zechariah 8:16-17, including part of the name of God written in ancient Hebrew, and verses from Nahum 1:5-6, both from the biblical Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets.

Experts managed to reconstruct 11 lines of text from Zechariah, including the verses, “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.”

Oren Ableman, a member of the Antiquities Authority team who conserved and studied the new fragments, described the artifacts as “another small piece of the puzzle of the past.”

Speaking in the laboratories of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem where the fragments were displayed for reporters on Tuesday morning, he said the concept of equal justice for all was laid out in these verses that “are read by people and are meaningful to people to this very day.”

A Bedouin shepherd came across the first of the ancient scrolls in 1947. He found them stored in jars in a cave in Qumran near the northern tip of the Dead Sea. Some were sold to a monastery and others to an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem. Once their authenticity had been established, archaeological expeditions and antiquity robbers followed and emptied the caves of whatever they could find.

But decades later, the Judean Desert still had more secrets to give up.

Amid signs that robbers were still seeking and hawking artifacts from the area, parts of which are difficult to reach and govern, the Israeli authorities decided to carry out a methodical, comprehensive survey of the cliffs, gorges and caves beginning in 2017.

“The archaeologists always used to chase after the robbers,” said Amir Ganor, who leads the Antiquities Authority’s theft-prevention unit. “We decided it was perhaps time to get ahead of the robbers.”

Aided by modern tools such as drones that could search every nook and cranny, three teams made up of four people each mapped and scoured about 50 miles of cliff face running the length of the Dead Sea.

Access to some of the caves would have been easier in ancient times. People knew how to navigate the animal paths, Mr. Ganor said, and instead of rappelling, they would have used rope ladders for remote caverns. But over 2,000 years, parts of the terrain have collapsed, creating deep chasms.

The West Bank was under Jordanian control from 1948 until Israel captured the area in the 1967 Middle East war. It is now divided between Israeli and partial Palestinian control. But the 1967 boundary did not exist in antiquity, Mr. Ganor said, and the archaeologists treated the Judean Desert as one unit for the purposes of the survey.

In the MurabBa’at caves, in what is now the West Bank, the archaeologists turned up a trove of artifacts. That included the basket and a cache of rare coins from the days of the Bar Kokhba revolt, minted with Jewish symbols such as a harp and date palms.

The basket looks not unlike one that could be bought at a home furnishing store today, but it dates to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period. It was found buried in the ground.

“We were very curious to see what was inside when we opened the lid,” said Naama Sukenik, the Antiquities Authority’s curator of organic materials. But it turned out to be empty, save for a bit of sand.

The archaeological survey also revealed arrows and spearheads scraps of fabric dyed with colorful stripes, fashionable for tunics in Roman times seeds olive and date pits remnants of sandals and a wooden lice comb similar to one that might be used today, whose fine teeth had captured a small louse.

The discovery in Cave 12

Price and his team made a truly significant discovery. Although the cave that the archaeologist and his team excavated had been looted (and the looters left behind a couple pick-axes), what was unearthed was quite important. Price and has team recovered six jars identical to the jars found in several of the other Qumran caves. These ceramic jars were designed to contain scrolls.

The condition of the some of the better-preserved Scrolls strongly supports the widely-held view that the jars were indeed intended for that purpose. Most of these jars are on display in Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book and in Kando’s famous antiquities shop in Bethlehem. Although there are doubters, most scholars are convinced that these ceramic jars at one time contained many of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Photo credit: Randall Price

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The new scroll segments were uncovered in 2019 but the discovery had been kept quiet until researchers could be sure there were no more finds in the cave that looters could set their hands on.

&ldquoJust like we follow them, the looters will follow us and dig in the sites we investigate,&rdquo Hamar tells Haaretz. &ldquoSo we are engaged in a cat and mouse game with them.&rdquo

Another extraordinary find in the survey was a perfectly preserved basket woven 10,500 years ago, in a time before the use of pottery reached the region.

Archaeologists Hagay Hamer and Oriah Amichai sieving finds at the entrance to the Cave of Horror. Eitan Klein, Israel Antiquities Authority The 10,500-year-old basket as found in Muraba‘at Cave. Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority

In the case of the Neolithic basket, which was found in Murabba&rsquoat Cave, the looters came dangerously close to hitting paydirt. The artifact, which may be one of the oldest surviving baskets ever found, was unearthed just a few centimeters from a pit that had been dug by looters in the cave, says Chaim Cohen, one of the archaeologists who excavated the site.

Some of the finds were even more serendipitous. For instance the decision to conduct a full excavation at the Cave of Horrors was born from a fortuitous bathroom visit by an archaeologist who was surveying the cave.

&ldquoI crouched to pee and suddenly I saw something that didn&rsquot look like sand, and I realized it was a sole of a shoe,&rdquo recalls IAA archaeologist Oriya Amichay, adding that her male colleagues probably missed it because they don&rsquot need to crouch to relieve themselves. &ldquoAt first I thought it was a sandal that belonged to one of the excavators from the 1960s and then I realized it was something much older and I started screaming for my colleagues and asking them to tell me I wasn&rsquot dreaming,&rdquo she says.

What Amichay had found was a Roman-era sandal from nearly 2,000 years ago. And the discovery signaled to the team that there were still finds to be uncovered at the site &ndash which led to a full excavation of that cave, and the discovery of the scroll fragments.

Needless to say, the looting of artifacts deals a double blow to heritage preservation efforts, experts say. Raiders will generally plow through a site to get to prized artifacts, often damaging other antiquities in the process. And even if the stolen materials are recovered by authorities, it&rsquos often very hard to figure out where they came from and connect them to their original context.

Excavations in Muraba‘at Cave. Yoli Schwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority

&ldquoThat is why it&rsquos so important that we got to the scroll and to the other artifacts before the thieves,&rdquo says Ofer Sion, the IAA archeologist who is the scientific head of the project.

The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd in a cave outside the ancient settlement of Qumran. Since then, tens of thousands of fragments belonging to some 900 manuscripts have been found, dating to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E.

One insight that the newly found fragments have yielded is that this particular scroll was written by two different scribes, as evidenced by the different handwritings that penned the Greek text, Sion says.

The fragments, which contain parts of the books of Nachum and Zechariah, also include slight differences in the words used in the original Hebrew and the standard Greek translation, the so-called Septuagint, which was first penned in the Hellenistic period, says Oren Ableman, curator and researcher with the IAA.

These differences are very important for scholars because they tell us that the process of canonization of the Hebrew Bible was still not complete by the time the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. The different versions can therefore offer insight on the many sources and versions that were behind the creation of the Bible as we know it today.

New Dead Sea Scroll cave found near Qumran, but scrolls are gone

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Over 60 years after the first excavations at Qumran, researchers from Hebrew University said Wednesday that they identified a twelfth cave near Qumran they believe contained Dead Sea Scrolls until it was plundered in the middle of the 20th century.

The latest excavation was conducted by Hebrew University and the Israel Antiquities Authority under the auspices of the IDF’s Civil Administration.

It yielded no new scrolls, but archaeologists found a small scrap of parchment in a jar and a collection of at least seven storage jugs identical to those found in the other Qumran caves.

Altogether there was “no doubt we have a new scroll cave,” Oren Gutfeld, head archaeologist from the dig, told The Times of Israel.

“Only the scrolls themselves are not there.”

The bit of parchment and other organic remains have been dated to the first century CE, when the community at Qumran was active during the twilight of the Second Temple period.

Pickaxes from the 1940s, a smoking gun from the Bedouin plunderers who dug in the cave, were found along with the ancient remains.

The dig in the cliffs west of Qumran, situated over the Green Line in the West Bank, was headed by Hebrew University’s Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia with the collaboration of Randall Price and students from Virginia’s Liberty University.

“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea Scrolls in 60 years,” Gutfeld said. “Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea Scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the twelfth cave.”

At the same time, Gutfeld said, the cave’s association with the Dead Sea Scrolls means “we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea Scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

The first batch of ancient scrolls plundered from caves near the shores of the Dead Sea were purchased by Israeli scholars from the black market in 1947, and additional texts surfaced in the years following in excavations in the Jordanian-held West Bank and for sale on the black market. After Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, many of the scrolls stored in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem were transferred to the Israel Museum.

Altogether, the nearly 1,000 ancient Jewish texts dated to the Second Temple period comprise a vast corpus of historical and religious documents that include the earliest known copies of biblical texts.

Roughly a quarter of the manuscripts are made up of material belonging to the Hebrew Bible, while another quarter detail the Qumran community’s unique philosophy.

The various scrolls and scroll fragments are identified by the cave they were believed to be stored in over the centuries. The new cave’s discovery shakes things up.

“How can we know for sure that they only came from 11 caves? For sure there were 12 caves, and maybe more,” Gutfeld said.

Among the other finds discovered in the cavern, now designated Q12 to denote its inclusion in the Qumran cave complex, were a leather strap for binding scrolls and a cloth for wrapping them, the university said in a statement announcing the find. Other discoveries included flint blades, arrowheads, and a carnelian stamp seal, all of which point to the cave’s inhabitation as far back as the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

Experts at the Dead Sea Scroll Laboratories in Jerusalem found no writing on the scrap of parchment found in the jar, but they plan to carry out multispectral imaging of the artifact to reveal any ink invisible to the naked eye.

The Q12 study was carried out as part of the IAA’s efforts to systematically excavate Judean Desert caves that may hold ancient scroll caches in a bid to foil antiquities theft. The expedition to Qumran was the first of its kind in the northern Judean Desert.

The IAA announced in November that it was launching a massive project to find as yet undiscovered Dead Sea Scrolls in the desert. Last summer an IAA team excavated the Cave of the Skulls in Zeelim Valley after the antiquities watchdog caught thieves in the act.

Gutfeld said he and his team “absolutely” plan to survey more caves in the region of Qumran in the coming months to determine where else to dig.

Follow Ilan Ben Zion on Twitter and Facebook .

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Popular Archaeology - November 07, 2012
Ancient Scribe Penned Manuscripts Linking Dead Sea Scrolls with Manuscripts Found at Masada in Israel . (read more)

Haaretz News- October 13, 2010
After repeated failures, new effort to revive the legendary balsam plant shows promise . (read more)

University of Haifa News- April 27, 2006
1800 Year-old Ein Gedi Archaeological Finds Exhibited for First Time at University of Haifa . (read more) - December 2, 2010
In Berkeley, Catholic priest gets excited about ancient shul . (read more)

ScienceDaily - July 12, 2010
Archeologists Explore Rural Galilee and Find Ancient Synagogue . (read more)

Haaretz News - 7 December 2009
Discovery of world's oldest church may turn prison into tourist site . (read more)

The Mac Weekly - 23 October 2009
Andrew Overman dusts off the past with unique find . (read more)

Haaretz News - 11 September 2009
Earliest known depiction of Second Temple lamp uncovered . (read more)

Israel Antiquities Authority - September 2009
Second Temple Period Stepped Street Discovered in City of David Excavation . (read more)

National Geographic News- August 15, 2008
What are the mysterious stones emerging from Kinneret waters? . (read more)

Haaretz News- June 17, 2008
What are the mysterious stones emerging from Kinneret waters? . (read more)

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - November 21, 2007
Unique mosaic floor uncovered in excavations of ancient synagogue in Galilee . (read more)


The discovery was made in the ancient city of Abydos in southern Egypt, located around 400 metres from the Temple of Seti I.

Believed to date back to 5316BC, excavators working on the site claimed to have uncovered huts, pottery and stone instruments.

Archaeologists also claim to have discovered 15 large graves, with some of them notably larger than the royal graves in Abydos.

As the city of Abydos was founded by predynastic rulers and is famed for its temples such as that of Seti I and its graves, researchers believe the city and cemetery were likely home to high-ranking officials and grave builders.

Dec 18, 2016 #152 2016-12-18T10:26

So what do we have here, a deliberately buried ancient city??

Mysterious Lost Ancient City Discovered In Greek Hillside . -hillside/

Dec 19, 2016 #153 2016-12-19T01:08

  • Bairen, located in central China's Hebei Province, was founded in 624 BC and flooded in 742AD
  • Experts said the ancient city had been a prosperous economic centre for more than a millennium
  • Ruins could carry great historical importance as the trading hub had been buried by mud as a whole
  • This is the first excavation carried out on the site since the founding of the People's Republic of China

Bairen, located in central China, dates back more than 2,600 years to China's Spring and Autumn period.

The city is thought to have been a prosperous trading hub until its sudden disappearance about 1,400 years ago in China's Tang Dynasty.

Dec 19, 2016 #154 2016-12-19T12:45

Neanderthals Made A Mysterious 180,000-Year Cave Pilgrimage . ilgrimage/

Ancient Footprints Show Australopithecus Was A Ladies’ Man . adies-man/

Dec 26, 2016 #155 2016-12-26T14:01

Engineer finds a huge physics discovery in da Vinci's 'irrelevant scribbles'

It was right in front of us all along.

Until now, art historians dismissed some doodles in da Vinci’s notebooks as “irrelevant.” But a new study from Ian Hutchings, a professor at the University of Cambridge, showed that one page of these scribbles from 1493 actually contained something groundbreaking: The first written records demonstrating the laws of friction.

Although it has been common knowledge that da Vinci conducted the first systematic study of friction (which underpins the modern science of tribology, or the study of friction, lubrication, and wear), we didn’t know how and when he came up with these ideas.

Hutchings was able to put together a detailed chronology, pinpointing da Vinci’s "Aha!" moment to a single page of scribbles penned in red chalk in 1493.

According to Gizmodo, the page drew attraction towards the beginning of the 20th century because of a faint etching of a woman near the top, followed by the statement "cosa bella mortal passa e non dura", which translates to "mortal beauty passes and does not last".

But a 1920s museum director dismissed the page as "irrelevant notes and diagrams in red chalk".

Almost a century later, Hutchings thought this page was worth a second look. He discovered that the rough geometrical figures drawn underneath the red notes show rows of blocks being pulled by a weight hanging over a pulley – in exactly the same kind of experiment students might do today to demonstrate the laws of friction.

Dec 27, 2016 #156 2016-12-27T19:02

A joint University of Birmingham-Egypt Exploration Society Research Project has revealed a hidden wall below a visitors' pathway.

Archaeologists working in the elite cemetery of Qubbet el-Hawa, near the Egyptian city of Aswan, have uncovered the remains of an ancient wall hidden beneath a sandy footpath. The first analyses of its structure provide compelling evidence that new graves may soon be discovered in its vicinity.

Qubbet el-Hawa cemetery is a valuable archaeological site, because it contains impressive rock cut tombs of a number of provincial officials of Egypt's Old Kingdom (roughly 2686-2181 BCE) and Middle Kingdom (roughly 2055-1650 BCE). However, it had never been comprehensively excavated and a number of illicit explorations in recent years has also made it all the more urgent to conduct in-depth scientific work to document what remains.

Dec 28, 2016 #157 2016-12-28T13:35

Ancient cave art in the Egyptian Sahara desert depicts two parents, a baby and a star in the east.

Italian researchers have discovered what might be the oldest nativity scene ever found — 5,000-year-old rock art that depicts a star in the east, a newborn between parents and two animals.

The scene, painted in reddish-brown ochre, was found on the ceiling of a small cavity in the Egyptian Sahara desert, during an expedition to sites between the Nile valley and the Gilf Kebir Plateau.

"It's a very evocative scene which indeed resembles the Christmas nativity. But it predates it by some 3,000 years," geologist Marco Morelli, director of the Museum of Planetary Sciences in Prato, near Florence, Italy, told Seeker.

Morelli found the cave drawing in 2005, but only now his team has decided to reveal the amazing find.

"The discovery has several implications as it raises new questions on the iconography of one of the more powerful Christian symbols," Morelli said.

The secret history of ancient toilets

By scouring the remains of early loos and sewers, archaeologists are finding clues to what life was like in the Roman world and in other civilizations.

Some 2,000 years ago, a high-ceilinged room under of one of Rome's most opulent palaces was a busy, smelly space. Inside the damp chamber, a bench, perforated by about 50 holes the size of dinner plates, ran along the walls. It may have supported the bottoms of some of the lowest members of Roman society.

Today, the room is shut off to the public, but archaeologists Ann Koloski-Ostrow and Gemma Jansen had a rare chance to study the ancient communal toilet on the Palatine Hill in 2014. They measured the heights of the benches' stone base (a comfortable 43 centimetres), the distances between the holes (an intimate 56 cm), the drop down into the sewer below (a substantial 380 cm at its deepest). They speculated about the mysterious source of the water that would have flushed the sewer (perhaps some nearby baths). Graffiti outside the entryway suggested long queues, in which people had enough time to write or carve their messages before taking a turn on the bench. The underground location, combined with the plain red-and-white colour scheme on the walls, implied a lower class of user, possibly slaves.

In 1913, when Italian excavator Giacomo Boni excavated this room, toilets were an unmentionable topic. In his report, he seems to mistake the remains of the holey benches for something much more sensational: part of an elaborate mechanism that, he speculated, would have pumped water and provided power for the palace above. Boni's prudish sensibilities wouldn't let him recognize what was before his very eyes, says Jansen. “He couldn't imagine it was a toilet.”

Aggies On Team Behind Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Discovery

The number 12 is significant to all Aggies, but it was especially meaningful for two former students who were part of the archaeological team that unearthed the 12th cave known to have contained Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a set of ancient manuscripts that date back to the time of Jesus. The scrolls contain some of the original writings of the Hebrew Bible as well as secular accounts of life in the first and second centuries AD.

Found between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves in the cliffs along the West Bank of the Dead Sea, scholars have long used these scrolls as sources of insight into Judeo -Christian history. No new finds of caves that had contained Dead Sea Scrolls had been made in the 60 years since&mdashuntil the dig by a team of American and Israeli archaeologists that included Aggies Bruce &rsquo85 and Rebecca &rsquo84 Hall.

The discovery of the 12th cave made worldwide news when it was announced in February. Bruce Hall said being connected with such a major archaeological find was &ldquoamazing,&rdquo and he described his and his wife&rsquos involvement on the team as a dream.

With only 16 archaeologists and volunteers on the team, Bruce and Rebecca were proud, excited, blessed, and honored to be included. She worked as a volunteer, while Bruce was the only other American archaeologist, next to Dr. Randall Price. Hall and Price had worked together before, climbing Mt. Ararat in search of Noah&rsquos Ark as part of an adventure chronicled in the 2015 film Finding Noah. (Read more about that here.)

Bruce and Rebecca left for Israel in late December 2016, prepared for a two-week stay. However, the history their team would soon dig up prompted them to extend their trip to almost a month. Bruce said they were &ldquooverwhelmed with the mercy and grace of God that put us in the right place at the right time.&rdquo

They are also the only group of archaeologists to have found the clay store jars, which once contained the scrolls, in their original positions. This was due to the cave partially collapsing and preserving those artifacts.

Bruce said the team is absolutely certain that the cave once held scrolls because of pieces of linen and a scrap of parchment that were found along with the clay pottery. While they are still uncertain as to whether or not the parchment contains any writing, Bruce said that if results come back and show traces of writing, &ldquoThis would be the archaeological find of the 21st century.&rdquo

Fragments of artifacts found in the cave. Photo courtesy of Bruce Hall '85.

Bruce compared the epic find to the baseball World Series. &ldquoIt&rsquos like we&rsquore in the World Series and just hit a home run and scored the 12th run.

&ldquoMost archaeologists don&rsquot get this kind of find in their lives. We&rsquore very blessed.&rdquo

Hall said he was &ldquostill worn out, but it was worth it,&rdquo and that he and Rebecca are already planning to go back next year and do it all again. While he said they would be thrilled to find the 13th , 14th , and 15th caves, finding the 12th was especially meaningful for the loyal Aggie couple. &ldquoWow, the 12th Man &hellip finding cave 12,&rdquo exclaimed Bruce, almost at a loss for words.

Bruce Hall received a bachelor&rsquos degree in architecture from A&M and is currently working toward a master&rsquos in archaeology. Rebecca Hall received a bachelor&rsquos degree in agricultural economics from A&M.

Watch the video: Archaeologists Discover New Dead Sea Scroll Fragments From the 2nd Century (August 2022).