In 1947, young Bedouins made one of the major archaeological discoveries of the 20th century: seven scrolls, covered with writings in ancient Hebrew – the first of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. They were unearthed in the Qumran cave system in the West Bank. This area, now occupied by Israel, contains ancient manuscripts dating from the 3rd century BC to 70 AD.
They were probably hastily hidden in the cave by followers of the separatist sect of Qumran around AD 70. Subsequently, some 970 manuscripts, some of them only in minute fragments, dating back to the 3rd century BC, were exhumed there. These are the oldest biblical texts ever found to date.
Among these documents are many books of the Old Testament, the Jewish Bible, which is also the foundation of the Christian faith. One of the most valuable is an almost complete copy of the book of Isaiah.
Now archaeologists are hoping to get their hands on fragments of the New Testament. This founding text for Christians relates the life of Jesus. Researchers are convinced that the Qumran excavations contain older accounts. Since 2010, “cave 53” has been attracting particular attention. Numerous potteries from different periods have been found there, ranging from the Hellenistic period to the early Islamic period.