Archaeologists from Israel’s Hebrew University have declared they found “one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries in 60 years.”

Lying in the old Judean desert just down the dusty cliff side, a cave was discovered with broken ancient storage jars, fragments of a scroll wrapping, and a leather tying string. It is being dubbed the 12th cave that once housed Dead Sea Scrolls.

“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 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, one of the project’s lead archaeologists.

Unfortunately, there were no Dead Sea Scrolls to be found. The ancient parchments were said to be looted from the cave in the 1950’s based on items left by looters.

“At some point hidden in the tunnel, we found a few [three] broken storage jars with the lid,” said Gutfeld. The team also found the cloth coverings and the leather strap that bound the scrolls the jars once held.

The excavations are part of “Operation Scroll,” a collaborative effort by the university, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria.

The original Dead Sea Scrolls were one of the greatest finds in the last 100 years. They were discovered by a young Bedouin shepherd in 1947 while hunting for a lost sheep in Qumran. The scrolls date from as early as the 4th Century BC. to about 300 years after the close of the Old Testament canon.

The find included more than 800 documents written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, mostly on animal skin and papyrus and have traditionally been identified with the ancient Gnostic sect called the Essenes.

The Essenes (in Modern Hebrew: אִסִּיִים, Isiyim; Greek: Εσσήνοι, Εσσαίοι, or Οσσαίοι, Essḗnoi, Essaíoi, Ossaíoi) were one of the first Roman Christian sects of Gnosticism of the Second Temple Judaism that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. The Essenes became major players of the Gnostic priestly class of Roman-Judea scene right at the time the Romans under Caesar had conquered Crete, Greece and Greco-Egypt.

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