Israel searching for more Dead Sea scrolls
Israel searching for more Dead Sea scrolls In this Monday, Sept. 26, 2011 file photo, Dr. Adolfo Roitman presents a part of the Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, inside the vault of the Shrine of the Book building at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. An Israeli antiquities official says Israel is embarking on a major expedition to find more Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
Israel searching for more Dead Sea scrolls
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Israel is embarking on a major archaeological expedition. The country in the Middle East hopes to find more Dead Sea Scrolls. This is according to an Israeli official.
Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority said a government research team will spend the next three years surveying hundreds of caves. The caves are in the Judean Desert. The area is near the Dead Sea. That is the region where the Dead Sea Scrolls were preserved for thousands of years. The scrolls are the world's oldest biblical manuscripts. They were discovered in 1947.
The collection is considered the crown jewel of Israeli antiquities.
In a move that is bound to stir controversy, the researchers may also excavate Dead Sea-area caves in the West Bank, Ganor said. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast War. But the Palestinians want the territory. They want to establish an independent state.
Ganor discussed details of the project with The Associated Press.
The expedition will begin in December. It will be funded by the Israeli prime minister's office, Ganor said.
The expedition will be the first large-scale archaeological survey of the area since Operation Scroll. That was an effort in 1993. The goal was to find any remaining Dead Sea Scrolls hidden in an area of the West Bank before Israel transferred partial control of the area to the Palestinian Authority. But no scrolls were found.
According to Ganor, archaeologists also hope to find other antiquities. They could date back to as early as 5,000 years ago. They also might date from the 1st-century Jewish-Roman war. Or they could date to the 2nd-century Bar Kochba revolt. The revolt occurred when Jewish fighters battling the Roman army sought refuge in the desert.
Last summer, Israel carried out a three-week excavation. Researchers searched the so-called Cave of the Skulls. The cave is in the Judean Desert. The Israelis excavated after catching a group of six Palestinian men digging illegally at the site. The men were found in 2014. The Palestinians were believed to be digging for more Dead Sea Scrolls.
In recent years, ancient manuscripts have trickled onto the local antiquities market. Looters are believed to have plundered them from Dead Sea-area caves. That prompted the Israeli government initiative.
"We know there are more," Ganor said, speaking of undiscovered Dead Sea Scrolls. "Most of the places haven't been reached."

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