2021 - 2022
In late 1946 or early 1947, a Bedouin boy of the Ta'amireh tribe, Muhammid Ahmed el-Hamed called edh-Dhib (the wolf), found a cave after searching for a lost animal. He stumbled onto the first cave containing scrolls from two thousand years ago. More Ta'amireh visited the cave and scrolls were taken back to their encampment. They were shown to Mar Samuel of the Monastery of Saint Mark in April 1947 and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was made known. The location of the cave was not revealed for another 18 months, but eventually, a joint investigation of the cave site was led by Roland de Vaux and Gerald L. Harding from 15 February to 5 March 1949. The interest in the scrolls with the hope of money from their sale initiated a long area-wide search by the Ta'amireh to find more such scrolls, the first result of which was the discovery of four caves in Wadi Murabba’at about 15 kilometers south of Qumran in 1951. In the Qumran area another cave was discovered, now referred to as Cave 2Q (1Q was the first scroll-bearing cave), in February 1952. However, only a few fragments were found in the cave. Fear of the destruction of archaeological evidence with the discovery of caves by the Bedouin led to a campaign by the French and American Schools to explore all other caves to find any remaining scrolls. Although 230 natural caves, crevices and other possible hiding places were examined in an 8-kilometer area along the cliffs near Qumran, only 40 contained any artifacts and one alone, 3Q, produced texts, the most unusual being the Copper Scroll. 4Q was discovered in September 1952 by the Ta'amireh. De Vaux, on being offered a vast amount of fragments, contacted Harding who drove the Qumran site to find that the Bedouin had discovered caves very near the Qumran ruins. These were Caves 4Q, 5Q, and 6Q, the most important of which was 4Q which originally contained around three-quarters of all the scrolls found in the immediate Qumran area. The first two of these caves had been cut into the marl terrace. The third was at the entrance to the Qumran Gorge just below the aqueduct. In 1955 a survey of the terrace brought to light a staircase leading down to the remains of three more artificial caves, 7Q, 8Q and 9Q at the end of the Qumran esplanade, all of which had collapsed and had been eroded, and a fourth cave, 10Q, on the outcrop which housed Caves 4Q & 5Q.
The last cave containing scrolls to be found, once again by the Ta'amireh, was Qumran Cave 11 (11Q), discovered in early 1956. Among its contents were the Paleo-Hebrew Leviticus scroll, the Great Psalms Scroll, and the Temple Scroll, though the latter had been spirited away and its recovery was to prove long and complex. In February 2017, the discovery of cave 12Q was announced, the contents of which included completely broken storage jars and scroll fragments, but no scrolls themselves. The cave was investigated by J. Randall Price and students of Liberty University in Virginia, along with an international team of archaeologists from the Hebrew university of Jerusalem in Israel. Iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s were also found, which indicate looting had occurred. In addition, archaeologists discovered pottery, flint blades, arrowheads, and a carnelian seal that date to the Chalcolithic and Neolithic periods. "This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. 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", reported Dr. Oren Gutfeld, the head of the excavations. According to Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the discovery of this cave showed that significant works were waiting to be done in the Judean Desert and some of important ones were waiting to be revealed.