From The New York Times:
Israeli researchers unveiled on Tuesday dozens of newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll fragments containing biblical texts dating back nearly 2,000 years, adding to the body of artifacts that have shed light on the history of Judaism, early Christian life and ancient humankind.
The parchment fragments, ranging from just a few millimeters to a thumbnail in size, are the first in about 60 years to have been unearthed in archaeological excavations in the Judean Desert. They were found as part of a four-year Israeli national project to prevent further looting of antiquities from the remote caves and crevices of the desert east and southeast of Jerusalem, which straddles the boundary of Israel and the occupied West Bank.
The project turned up many other rare and historic finds, including a large woven basket with a lid that has been dated to approximately 10,500 years ago and may be the oldest such intact basket in the world. The archaeologists also found a 6,000-year-old, partially mummified skeleton of a child buried in the fetal position and wrapped in a cloth.
“The desert team showed exceptional courage, dedication and devotion to purpose, rappelling down to caves located between heaven and earth,” said Israel Hasson, the departing director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is the custodian of some 15,000 fragments of the scrolls.
He added in a statement that their work in the caves involved “digging and sifting through them, enduring thick and suffocating dust, and returning with gifts of immeasurable worth for mankind.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls, mostly discovered during the last century, contain the earliest known copies of parts of almost every book of the Hebrew Bible, other than the Book of Esther, written on parchment and papyrus.
Dating from about the third century B.C. to the first century A.D., the biblical and apocryphal texts are widely considered to be among the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century and remain the subject of heated academic debate around the world.