Dozens of fragments of a biblical scroll from the Bar Kokhba period, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child, and the oldest complete basket in the world were found by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve. This marks the first time in approximately 60 years that archaeological excavations uncovered fragments of a biblical scroll.
Verses from Zechariah on Parchment
The scroll, which was written in Greek, includes portions of the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets, including the books of Zechariah and Nahum. The IAA operation was aimed at preventing the looting of antiquities in the Judean Desert.
Verses from Zechariah written in Greek were discovered on dozens of parchment fragments found in a cave where Jewish refugees hid almost 1900 years ago.
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate—declares Hashem Zechariah 8:16-17
6,000-Year-Old Mummified Young Girl
In addition to the scroll fragments, the operation uncovered additional extraordinary finds from various periods: a cache of rare coins from the days of Bar-Kokhba, a 6,000-year-old skeleton of a child – likely female, wrapped in a cloth and mummified, and a large complete basket dating back 10,500 years, likely the oldest in the world.
The discoveries were retrieved from the “Cave of Horror” in the Judean Desert reserve’s Nahal Hever. The cave, roughly 80 meters below the cliff top, is flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.
Additional finds left behind by the Jewish rebels who fled to the caves at the end of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 136 CE include a cache of coins from the revolt bearing Jewish symbols such as a harp and a date palm, arrow- and spear-heads, woven fabric, sandals, and even lice combs.
Verses From Nahum
Also identified, on another fragment, are verses from the Prophet Nahum.
The mountains quake because of Him, And the hills melt. The earth heaves before Him, The world and all that dwell therein.Who can stand before His wrath? Who can resist His fury? His anger pours out like fire, And rocks are shattered because of Him. Nahum 1:5–6
Another exciting aspect about this scroll is that despite most of the text being in Greek, the name of God appears in ancient Hebrew script, known from the times of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Mummified Young Girl
Another astounding discovery was found near the rock wall inside the Cave of Horror: A 6,000-year-old partially mummified skeleton of a child, wrapped in cloth. According to prehistorian Ronit Lupu of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “On moving two flat stones, we discovered a shallow pit intentionally dug beneath them, containing a skeleton of a child placed in a fetal position. It was covered with a cloth around its head and chest, like a small blanket, with its feet protruding from it. It was obvious that whoever buried the child had wrapped him up and pushed the edges of the cloth beneath him, just as a parent covers his child in a blanket. A small bundle of cloth was clutched in the child’s hands. The child’s skeleton and the cloth wrapping were remarkably well preserved and because of the climatic conditions in the cave, a process of natural mummification had taken place; the skin, tendons, and even the hair were partially preserved, despite the passage of time”. A preliminary study of a CT scan of the child, carried out by Dr. Hila May from Tel Aviv University, suggests that this child was 6-12 years old.
Unprecedented Find: Ancient Basket
Another find, currently unparalleled worldwide, was discovered by youths from the Nofei Prat pre-military leadership academy in one of the Muraba‘at Caves in the Nahal Darga Reserve: a huge intact basket with a lid that was also exceptionally well preserved due to the high temperatures and extreme aridity of the region. The basket dates to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period, approximately 10,500 years ago. As far as we know, this is the oldest basket in the world that has been found completely intact and its importance is therefore immense. The basket had a capacity of 90–100 liters and was apparently used for storage. The basket provides fascinating new data on the storage of products some 1,000 years before the invention of pottery. The basket is woven from plant material and its method of weaving is unusual. When it was found it was empty, and only future research of a small amount of soil remaining inside it will help us discover what it was used for and what was placed in it.