Raiders of the lost scrolls

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls months before the birth of the modern state of Israel, was arguably the greatest archeological and historical find in history. Not only did it verify that the land of Israel had been the national homeland of the Jewish people for millennium, it confirmed the authenticity of the Bible. The Hebrew scrolls dated to be two thousands years old, would be the same unchanged text passed on throughout the generations. 

A similar important historical discovery caused waves to sweep throughout Israel and the world this week, when fragments of ancient Biblical scrolls, and other treasures, were found in caves on the cliffs that hug the Dead Sea. Many are calling this Israel’s biggest archaeological find since the Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr Eitan Klein, the archaeologist who led the digs is now a household name in Israel. He has also won the affectionate title ‘Indiana Jones,’ due to the dare incurred in he and his team needed to salvage the scrolls. 

The fragments were discovered due to a plot worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Klein mapped it all out using a fascinating combination of gathering intelligence from Bedouin informers, cutting-edge technology and the sheer guts required to repel hundreds of meters into the entrance of the caves with an abyss hovering below. 

Before the first shovel of earth was unturned, Klein and the Israel Antiquities Authority set up a network of Bedouin informants to retrieve intelligence about the theft of Israeli antiquities. Not only did Klein have to squeeze out information from convicted antiquities thieves who as Bedouin, are people loyal to their tribe, he also had to work with the Israeli police, Interpol and even the FBI. This is because looted artifacts can eventually end up in museums as far away as Paris, London and New York. 

After gathering the necessary intelligence, Klein used an “air force” of drones that could photograph in such a fine resolution, that it was possible to measure the specifications of the caves and retrieve accurate imagery of up to an astonishing 1 centimeter. The state-of-the-art drones came with a fully autonomous functioning mode which meant no internet connection was required, which is an absolute necessity when mapping the remote and unforgiving desert. It was thanks to this “air force” of drones, that a 6000 year-old mummified girl was also discovered even before any digging had begun. 

The centre of the excavations was the ‘Cave of Horrors’ chillingly named so seventy years ago, when 30 skeletons from the Bar Kochva period were found there. Perching over an abyss, the cave was the home of Jews in rebellion who were hiding from the cruel Romans, until, with nowhere to escape to, they eventually starved to death

These latest finds also date to the Bar Kochva rebellion of 132 CE. For the most they came from the books of the prophets Zechariah and Nahum. Unlike the earlier  Dead Sea Scrolls, or the fragments discovered previously from the Bar Kochva period (in which the leader asks for a lulav to celebrate the festival of Sukkoth), these newly discovered pieces were not written in Hebrew, they were all in Greek, that is, except for the tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew word of the most holy name, otherwise known as HaShem. The fact that Greek could have been a lingua franca yet Jewish people still insisted on writing HaShem, is remarkable. No matter what the surrounding culture, HaShem was always in the minds of the Jewish people, so much so, that they stuck stubbornly to their belief and creed, in the face of a cruel Roman Empire bent on destroying them.