Qumran Cave Excavation Project
(Part of Operation Scroll) Prospectus for the 2020 Seasion
Randall Price, Ph.D.
The last confirmed Dead Sea Scroll cave was Cave 11, discovered in 1956 to the north of the Qumran settlement. In response to the 1993 Declaration of Principles in which Israel withdrew from Bethlehem and Jericho allowing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to have sovereignty, the Civil Administration for Judea & Samaria which governed archaeological work in the “Disputed Territories,” especially the “West Bank” (where Qumran is located), sent scores of archeologists to survey the caves both north and south of Qumran in case this area was given to the PA (which was understood as the next withdrawal had the “peace process” operated as expected). The results of this survey was published in 2012 in the journal ‘Atiqot. Based on these published surveys and previous satellite remote data commissioned by Dr. Price and personal surveys conducted by Dr. Price and Yacov Kalman in 2010 and subsequently by Dr. Oren Gutfeld, Cave 53 (the ‘Atiqot survey numbering) was selected for excavation. It proved to be a previously unknown scroll cave and the first discovered south of Qumran and the first confirmed since 1956. Its excavation made international news, was ranked by Archaeology magazine as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2017, and received coverage by National Geographic magazine, being given a place in its cover story “The Bible Hunters” (December 2018). Drs. Price and Gutfeld excavated a second cave near this cave in 2018, again finding significant discoveries including bronze and ceramic vessels and textiles that identified it as a former repository for Dead Sea Scrolls. Other caves were excavated in 2019 with one confirming a scroll cave location first rumored in the 1950’s with the location being lost until rediscovered by our team.
Importance & Urgency of the Work
Plan for the January 2022 Excavation Season
The plan for the 2022 excavation season is the excavation of Cave 61 (‘Atiqot survey number) situated high above the Wadi Qumran near to the Qumran Community. This cave is a large cave that received a preliminary excavation (probably by DeVaux in the 1950’s) which was poorly done. The finds included pottery and textiles that indicate habitation in the Hellenistic period (the time in which the Dead Sea Scroll Community began and produced the first scrolls and hid them). Access to conduct this cave was only possible because the Israel government did not fund Operation Scroll as expected and the Israel Antiquities Authority could not do the work. It provided an opportunity for our team given we are able to finance the excavation in time to secure a permit. The estimated budget, including personnel, equipment, analysis of finds, storage, documentation and publication is $100K. This will cover a three-week period of excavation plus the required time after for scholarly analysis and publication (one to two years).
We are seeking an additional $30K for an important research project that connects the scrolls and the site of Qumran based on Dr. Price’s previous excavation on the Qumran Plateau and his discovery of hundreds of animal bones that were the buried remains of an ancient ritual (with ;possible biblical connections). The scientists who extracted ancient DNA from these bones and identified the now extinct breed of goats from which they came, are prepared to extract ancient DNA from some of the Dead Sea Scrolls (written on goat skin) in an attempt to find a genetic correlation that will, for the first time, scientifically prove a connection between the scrolls and the site of Qumran. This study has been waiting for 10 years to be performed. The geneticist (Dr. Gila Kahila Bar-Gal of Hadassah Medical) who will perform it with her team worked previously with scroll DNA and has access to new technology which will improve past results and make possible the comparative scroll and animal bone study. This research also is urgent.