NPR reports that archaeologists working in caves on the shores of the Dead Sea have found, for the first time in 60 years, another fragmentary parchment dating back to the time of the Christ, along with a much, much older basket and mummified child:
For four years, archaeologists rappelled down desert cliff sides and excavated nearly all of the approximately 500 known caves alongside the western shore of the Dead Sea, which lies in both Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Researchers still have about 20 caves to excavate.
All but three of the caves had already been visited by looters going back to the 1950s, Ganor said. But not everything was looted.
In the Nahal Hever area of Israel, in the Cave of Horror – named after the dozens of human skeletons discovered there in an Israeli dig in the 1960s – the team found a crumpled bundle of dozens of tiny parchment fragments in ancient Greek.
Pieced together like a puzzle, researchers determined them to be Greek translations of several verses from Twelve Minor Prophets, a book of the Hebrew Bible. They corresponded to larger pieces of the scroll discovered by an Israeli archaeologist in the same cave in the 1960s.
Based on the style of the Greek script, the scroll fragments appear to have been written in the first century B.C. Based on coins found in the cave, the scroll was probably brought to the cave in A.D. 135 at the end of a Jewish revolt against the Romans named for its leader, Bar Kokhba.
One of the verses on the fragments is from Zechariah 8:16: “Speak truth, each man to his neighbor, and render truth and justice in your gates.” But the scroll fragments feature a different ending: “…justice in your streets.”
Also discovered in the Cave of Horror was a 6,000-year-old partially mummified skeleton of a child wrapped in cloth, with skin, tendons and hair partially preserved.
Buried in one of those West Bank caves was a huge, intricately woven basket dating to the Neolithic period, about 1,000 years before the invention of pottery. The basket has a capacity of about 100 liters (26 gallons). Researchers are studying small soil samples found inside to determine what it had once stored.