On a day that saw the Israel Antiquities Authority unveil the first Bible scroll fragments found in decades and numerous other dazzling artifacts from the “Cave of Horror” above the Dead Sea — including a huge 10,500-year-old complete woven basket, the oldest in the world — perhaps the most extraordinary news is that there are another 20 promising caves, holding untold potential treasures, that have yet to be excavated.
That means the dozens of fragments shown to the public on Tuesday could mark the beginning of an exciting new era of discovery, 60 years after the last major scroll finds.
Since 2017, the IAA has spearheaded an ambitious survey of some 500 caves in the Judean Desert in an unprecedentedly wide-ranging and physically daring operation involving rappelling down rockfaces and setting up work camps on sheer cliffs.
The operation’s stated goal is, for once, to be one step ahead of the antiquities looters who comb these caves, where the original caches of Dead Sea Scrolls — thousands of pieces of varied ancient scripture and writings dating from circa 400 BCE to 300 CE — were found by Bedouin shepherds starting in 1946.
In the operation to date, Amir Ganor, the head of the IAA’s anti-theft unit, told this reporter at a buzzing media event in the IAA’s Jerusalem office, most of the 600-plus Judean Desert caves have been mapped using ...