How the Dead Sea Scrolls survived a war in the 1960s

Excerpt from the January 20, 1968 issue of Science News

dead sea scroll caves

TEXT MESSAGES  Fast action saved the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 11 West Bank caves such as these, from war damage 50 years ago. In 2017, researchers found an additional cave that may have once held ancient text-covered scrolls.


Dead Sea Scrolls safe

The famous Dead Sea Scrolls, rumored lost or damaged during the June war between Israel and Egypt, are safe, according to Antiquity…. On the eve of the war they were packed up and put safely in a strong room in the basement of the Palestine Archaeological Museum (Rockefeller Museum), according to a reliable authority. —  Science News, January 20, 1968


The Dead Sea Scrolls made news again in 2017 when archaeologists announced the discovery of a cave with new evidence of scrolls. The cave, close to the original 11 caves that housed scrolls near Qumran in the West Bank, held several broken jars and linen like that used to wrap the scrolls. The pottery dates to roughly 2,200 years ago and is typical of the kind used to store scrolls. One large jar still held a blank fragment of hide, possibly intended to be written on. Two rusty pickaxes located near that jar suggest looters took scrolls from the cave several decades ago.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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