The original 1947-48 finds of scrolls in caves near the Dead Sea were a huge sensation. Preserved by the aridity of that region in the southwestern part of Israel, these scrolls dated back to around 100 B.C.-100 A.D. They included Hebrew texts of much of the Old Testament, which were about a thousand years older than previously known Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts and showed that the these texts had been transmitted rather faithfully over centuries of scribal copying. There were also other writings peculiar to the Jewish community that lived near those caves, which gave new insights into the religious and social currents of that day.
The last of those manuscript discoveries by scholars was in 1961. Since then, there has been only trickle of artifacts from looters who have dug up items to sell, but with no proper historical context. In the last few years, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has mounted an exhaustive survey of every nook, cranny, and hole in that Judean Desert area, in order to forestall further loss of ancient artifacts. The IAA has now announced some finds from that survey. They include further Bible texts (in Greek), the oldest known woven basket (10,500 years old), and a 6,000 year old mummified skeleton of a child, covered with a cloth. The searchers also found arrow and spear tips, coins, sandals and even lice combs, all from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt (133-135 A.D.).
Several coins minted by the Jewish rebels under Bar Kokhba’s leadership, carried the writing: “Year 1 for the redemption of Israel.” Donald T. Ariel, head of the IAA’s Coin Department, said: “Coins are an expression of sovereignty. Minting coins meant to be free.”
Here is a fragment of a scroll which contains portions of the book of the 12 Minor Prophets, including Zechariah and Nahum:
The oldest artifact disclosed was this basket, woven from reeds. It is carbon dated to around 8500 B.C., which is deep in the Neolithic era (i.e. late Stone Age, no widespread metals available):
This basket is large (~ 100 liters or 25 gallons). Archaeologists suggest it was used for storage by nomadic peoples who visited the cave. At that time, pottery was not used by people in that region. The basket was recovered from a pit dug in the floor of a cave:
The basket, like the other artifacts, owes its preservation largely to the extremely low humidity of the region. One more artifact to show here is a wooden comb. This style of comb was common in the ancient Mediterranean world. The coarse teeth are for grooming your hair, and (very important back then!) the fine teeth are for removing lice from your scalp and hair: