New Dead Sea Scroll Caves?

Bible and archaeology news


A Dead Sea Scroll fragment from Qumran Cave 4. Photo: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeologists have identified two new caves that may have once held Dead Sea Scrolls. The caves (called 53b and 53c) are located near the site of Qumran on the western shore of the Dead Sea. In this same vicinity, the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered 70 years ago.

During the Second Temple period, a Jewish sectarian group—identified by most scholars as the Essenes—lived at Qumran. Many believe the Essenes wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, which consist of Biblical and secular texts, and stored them in the caves near their settlement.

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Although no new scroll fragments were discovered in the new “scroll caves,” archaeologists found pottery and scribal paraphernalia, including rope, string, and textiles. This is not proof that these caves once held scrolls. However, the evidence supports the idea that scribal activity of some sort may have taken place in these caves, and it is certainly possible that they contained scrolls at one time.

In 2017, another cave (Cave 53) was discovered with a single, blank scroll—along with jars (of the type used to store scrolls), rope, string, and textiles. These three new caves stand in addition to the 11 caves found containing Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Dead Sea Scrolls have been called the greatest manuscript find of all time. Visit the BAS Dead Sea Scrolls Page for dozens of articles on the scrolls’ significance, discovery and scholarship.

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