New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found in a cave near the Dead Sea, Israeli archaeologists say.
The pieces of parchment build on a collection of ancient religious manuscripts discovered six decades ago.
Experts believe the fragments are part of a set known as the Cave of Horror, named after 40 human skeletons that were discovered in the 1960s during excavations.
Archaeologists also found a partly mummified skeleton of a child that dates back 6,000 years, as well as a finely woven basket that the Antiquities Authority said was probably the oldest ever documented, dating back 10,500 years.
“These finds are not just important to our own cultural heritage, but to that of the entire world,” said Avi Cohen, CEO of the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, according to The Post.
“The scroll fragments containing biblical texts, the coins and the additional finds from the Second Temple Period that were found in this unique project directly attest to the Jewish heritage of the region and the inseparable bond between the Jewish cultural activities and our place in this land.”
Archaeologists believe the artifacts were stored in the cave at the time of the Bar Kochba Revolt, which occurred between A.D. 132 and 136 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.
“These are new pieces of the puzzle and we can add them to our greater picture of the period and of the text,” Oren Ableman of the Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Unit said.
“Even though these pieces are small, they did give us some new information that we did not know before.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by Bedouin shepherds on the West Bank in either 1946 or 1947.
The scrolls contain documentation of an obscure Jewish sect that existed during Jesus’ life on earth, as well as the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible.
Further excavations yielded additional manuscripts and fragments in the 1940s and ’50s.
Explorations of the area that had slowed were reignited in 2017 after new pieces of scrolls and parchment popped up on the illegal antiquities market, Reuters reported.
Many of the caves in the cliffs were filled only with sand and debris, but others yielded discoveries like the artifacts.
“The desert team showed exceptional courage, dedication and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth, digging and sifting through them, enduring thick and suffocating dust, and returning with gifts of immeasurable worth for mankind,” Antiquities Authority Director Israel Hasson said.
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