After years of fruitless searches Israeli archaeologists say they have found evidence of a twelfth Dead Sea Scrolls cave.
The archaeologists, including Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the university's Institute of Archaeology – aided by Randall Price, and students from Liberty University in Virginia – are the first in over 60 years to have discovered a new scroll cave.
"Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave, and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear," Gutfeld said.
"The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s, stored within the tunnel for later use, proves the cave was looted."
Until recently, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained the coveted scrolls.
"This exciting excavation is the closest we've come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years," said Gutfeld, who directed the dig. "Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave."
Despite not finding more invaluable scrolls themselves, Gutfeld said the evidence uncovered in the cave unequivocally confirms it once contained the documents.
"Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we 'only' found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen," he said.