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Discovery of ancient scroll is first of its kind since Dead Sea Scrolls

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By Euronews  with AFP
newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Dead Sea scrolls conservation lab in Jerusalem
newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments at the Dead Sea scrolls conservation lab in Jerusalem   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

A 2,000-year-old biblical scroll has been unearthed in the Judean desert in Israel, the first discovery of its kind since the Dead Sea Scrolls were found more than 70 years ago.

The religious text, written in Greek, was found during excavations in a cliff-side cave in the Nahal Hever nature reserve, as part of a national operation to combat heritage looting.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said the “historic” discovery has made it possible to reconstruct passages from the books of Zechariah and Nahum, from the book of the twelve minor prophets of the Bible.

"For the first time in about 60 years, archaeological excavations have uncovered pieces of a biblical scroll," the IAA said in a statement.

Sebastian Scheiner/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Israel Antiquities Authority conservator Tanya Bitler shows newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragmentsSebastian Scheiner/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

The excavation, in the West Bank part of the Judean Desert which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, required drones and mountain equipment such as ropes for abseiling.

Sebastian Scheiner/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Silver coins struck by rebels in the Jewish uprising against Rome between 132 and 136 ADSebastian Scheiner/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

In addition to the pieces of parchment, other rare finds were made; including items dating back to the Jewish revolt of Bar Kokhba against the Romans (132-136 AD), a 6,000-year-old mummified child's skeleton draped in cloth, and a 10,500-year-old basket, which the IAA estimates as “probably the oldest in the world”.

Sebastian Scheiner/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
A complete woven basket from the Neolithic period, estimated to be 10,500 years oldSebastian Scheiner/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s in the caves of Qumran, antique looters have targeted the caves of the Judean desert.

Israel has mounted a campaign to “save these rare and important heritage items from the clutches of thieves” according to Israel Hasson, the director of the IAA.

The more than 900 Dead Sea Scrolls are considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time as they include religious texts in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, as well as the oldest known version of the Old Testament.