The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology includes an introduction to the field of archaeology for readers who might not be familiar with the methods, practices, and importance of this area of study. Included in this section is an annotated bibliography of important biblical archaeological reports, books, and journal articles for further study. The rest of the handbook is devoted to a book-by-book (Genesis through Revelation) presentation of the most significant archaeological discoveries that enhance our understanding of the biblical text, including a section on the intertestamental period.
Much of what is in these articles about the new find is also in other reports. But, the Times piece confirms that
Experts at the Dead Sea Scroll Laboratories in Jerusalem … plan to carry out multispectral imaging of the [apparently blank parchment fragment] to reveal any ink invisible to the naked eye.
Such plans weren’t entirely clear from what I’d seen thus far, though it would seem to be a logical step for the sake of thoroughness. Kudos to Jim Davila for his correct prior speculation about how to interpret some of the previous and seemingly more ambiguous comments touching these plans.
Working under the auspices of Operation Scroll, archaeologists have discovered what is being numbered as the twelfth scroll cave in the vicinity of Khirbet Qumran.
Work in the new cave has produced no new texts, but both linen (characteristic of scroll wrappers found elsewhere) and blank parchment fragments suggest that texts probably were stored in the cave at some point. Since no [scroll-type] texts were found in this cave, as with cave 8, the new cave’s designation will likely be Q12 rather than 12Q. [Updated 15 February 2017. For explanation of this correction, please see Qumran Cave 12: Update 2.]
At this point, the total contents of the cave seem to be:
Two mid-twentieth-century pickax heads (presumably from previous looters of the cave)
Remains of six jars of the same type as those containing scrolls in other caves
Papyrus and parchment fragments
A leather strap and string consistent with those used with scrolls
Arrowheads and knives
A carnelian stamp seal
This new cave find and its contents are definitely interesting. But, for texts that have reached the market through Bedouins, the discovery—and apparent prior looting of the new cave—also opens new questions about the accuracy of standing assessments of the caves in which these texts were found.
At least one of the team that has excavated this twelfth cave, Randall Price, professor and museum curator at Liberty University, thinks he has a lead on a thirteenth cave with a currently-obscured entrance. Whether that lead will pan out is yet to be seen, but a twelfth cave’s discovery is certainly exciting in itself.