Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Operation Scroll: still looking ...

THERE'S COMPETITION: The Race for the Next Dead Sea Scrolls, and Why We May Lose It Decades after first ancient Jewish texts were found at Qumran, hundreds of caves around the Dead Sea could yield more. But we have to hurry (Moshe Gilad, Haaretz premium).
The conversation with [Dr. Oren] Gutfeld takes place at the entrance to the cave. In the two excavation seasons conducted in Cave 53, many non-scroll objects have been found, some of them valuable, some from prehistoric times and from the Second Temple era.

I asked if somewhere inside he expects, every time he begins to explore a new cave, to find scrolls. He looks at me and considers for a moment. “We come to each new cave with zero expectations. We try to understand the daily lives of those who used it,” Gutfeld says – then admits, “Almost every night I dream of finding a scroll. If we get lucky and find even one written line, that would be the best.”

Albeit scroll-less, every day of digging in the Judean Desert caves reveals new things about the material culture of people of the “Yahad” community (the cult that operated here), he says. “Discovering a scroll would be the ultimate, but it’s just as important to find things that shed light on who they were.”
This is a good, thorough article that strikes a reasonable balance between coverage of the so-far imaginary scrolls that archaeologists hope to find and the actual material culture that they have been uncovering in the caves.

I hope they get some government funding to speed up the work. The danger is real that looters will get to any really important artifacts ahead of the archaeologists.

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For more on the excavations in Cave 53a and 53b, as well as links to earlier posts on Operation Scroll, see here.

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