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New Dead Sea Scroll fragments discovered in Israel

The fragments of parchment bear lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum and have been dated around the 1st century AD.

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Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Dead Sea scrolls conservation lab in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Israeli archaeologists on Tuesday announced the discovery of dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text found in a desert cave and believed hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Dead Sea scrolls conservation lab in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Israeli archaeologists on Tuesday announced the discovery of dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text found in a desert cave and believed hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Dead Sea scrolls conservation lab in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Israeli archaeologists on Tuesday announced the discovery of dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text found in a desert cave and believed hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Israeli archaeologists have announced the discovery of dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text found in a desert cave, believed to have been hidden during a Jewish revolt against Rome nearly 1,900 years ago.

The fragments of parchment bear lines of Greek text from the books of Zechariah and Nahum and have been dated around the 1st century AD, based on the writing style, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

They are the first new scrolls found in archaeological excavations in the desert south of Jerusalem in 60 years.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts found in desert caves in the West Bank near Qumran in the 1940s and 1950s, date from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD. They include the earliest known copies of biblical texts and documents outlining the beliefs of a little understood Jewish sect.

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Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

The roughly 80 new pieces are believed to belong to a set of parchment fragments found in a site in southern Israel known as the Cave of Horror after 40 human skeletons were found there during excavations in the 1960s. Those fragments also bear a Greek rendition of the Twelve Minor Prophets, a book in the Hebrew Bible.

The cave is in a remote canyon around 25 miles south of Jerusalem.

The artifacts were found during an operation in Israel and the occupied West Bank conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority to find scrolls and other artifacts to prevent possible plundering.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war, and international law prohibits the removal of cultural property from occupied territory. The authority held a news conference on Tuesday to unveil the discovery.

The fragments are believed to have been part of a scroll stashed in the cave during the Bar Kochba Revolt, an armed Jewish uprising against Rome during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, between 132 and 136 AD. Coins struck by rebels and arrowheads found in other caves in the region also hail from that period.

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The fragments bear a biblical text (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

The fragments bear a biblical text (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

The fragments bear a biblical text (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

“We found a textual difference that has no parallel with any other manuscript, either in Hebrew or in Greek,” said Oren Ableman, a Dead Sea Scroll researcher with the Israel Antiquities Authority.

He referred to slight variations in the Greek rendering of the Hebrew original compared to the Septuagint — a translation of the Hebrew Bible to Greek made in Egypt in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.

Alongside the Roman-era artifacts, the exhibit included far older discoveries of no lesser importance found during its sweep of more than 500 caves in the desert: the 6,000-year-old mummified skeleton of a child, an immense, complete woven basket from the Neolithic period, estimated to be 10,500 years old, and scores of other delicate organic materials preserved in caves’ arid climate.

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In 1961, Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni excavated the Cave of Horror and his team found nine parchment fragments belonging to a scroll with texts from the Twelve Minor Prophets in Greek, and a scrap of Greek papyrus.

Since then, no new texts have been found during archaeological excavations, but many have turned up on the black market, apparently plundered from caves.

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