The newly-unearthed text dates back about 2,000 years, was written in Greek and matches a scroll discovered about 60 years ago called the “Book of the 12 Minor Prophets” that is part of the ancient Jewish texts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The manuscript was located in the “Cave of Horror,” where 1,900-year-old skeletons of Jewish rebels who had fought against the Roman Empire have previously been found.
The fragments have facilitated scholars to reconstruct 11 lines of text.
“These are new pieces of the puzzle and we can add them to our greater picture of the period and of the text,” said Oren Ableman of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) Dead Sea Scrolls Unit. He added that, “Even though these pieces are small, they did give us some new information that we did not know before.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls were found by local Bedouin in 1947 in the nearby caves of Qumran, which is about 20 km (about 12.5 miles) east of Jerusalem. The ancient collection has provided insight into Jewish society and religion before and after the time of Jesus.
A 6,000-year-old partially mummified skeleton of a child was also among the treasures recently excavated; as was a 10,500-year-old finely woven basket that had had been preserved in perfect condition by the hot, dry air of the Judean desert, which the IAA estimates to likely be the oldest in the world.
The IAA has been in a race to locate ancient treasures against both time and antiquities robbers, who peddle stolen artefacts on the black market. Since 2017, official crews have been abseiling down marl and limestone cliffs and using unmanned aerial vehicles to map hundreds of caves and hollows over 100 km (65 miles).