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Hebrew University Archaeologists Find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

February 8, 2017 – Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.

Ziad Abu Ganem and student filter material from cave

The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the help of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia.

The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

 

Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

Cloth that was used for wrapping the scrolls

Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).“This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) attributed to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

Dr. Gutfeld added: “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons, and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

“The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.”

Photo credits: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

 

News

Int’l team including Hebrew U scientists restore flavor to tomatoes

Remember the good old days when tomatoes used to taste like… tomatoes, with a lot of flavor? In pursuit of longer shelf life, enhanced firmness and disease resistance, modern commercial tomatoes have gradually lost it.

After a decade of research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers, as part of an international team that included US, Chinese and Spanish scientists, have identified the chemical compounds and the functional genes that give a tomato – Israelis’ favorite salad component – its great taste.

The study, published in the journal Science, has made it possible to produce tomatoes with their good old flavor, alongside other traits that make them attractive to consumers and longer-lasting for shipment around the world.

To launch the research, HU’s agriculture faculty contributed 398 tomato varieties from the laboratory of Prof. Dani Zamir at the Institute of Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture. “The varieties, including modern, heirloom and wild relatives of the cultivated tomatoes, were chosen from a collection of some 8,000 tomato that we keep in a seed bank at the lab,” said doctoral student Itay Zemach from Zamir’s lab.

Tomato fruit samples the HU team grew in Israel were sent to all participating research groups, each identifying different components. Doctoral student Josef Fisher of the Israeli team measured and analyzed the sugar content, the weight and other morphological characteristics of the tomatoes, such as size and color; in Spain, researchers checked for volatile compounds responsible for tomato aroma; in the US, researchers conducted a taste test to rate the tomato varieties according to their flavor and other traits; and in China researchers sequenced and analyzed the genomes of the various varieties.

Through analysis of the chemistry of the tomatoes, researchers identified 13 compounds associated with good flavor. They realized that modern tomatoes lack sufficient sugars and volatile chemicals critical to better flavor. Those factors have been lost during the past 50 years because breeders preferred to put their focus on other traits, most of which negatively correlated to flavor, researchers said.

“The research showed a positive correlation between sugar level and taste in the tomato varieties we’ve examined,” Zemach said. “Tasters ranked varieties with high sugar levels as more delicious, and the gene screening showed that the main gene that differs in flavor-enhanced tomatoes is the one that increase the sugar level.”

To study how to enhance the flavor in modern tomatoes, they studied “alleles” – the versions of DNA that give a tomato gene its specific traits. Through a genome-wide association study, researchers identified the locations of the good alleles that allow the production of compounds that contribute to tastier tomatoes. After mapping genes that control synthesis of all the important chemicals, they used genetic analysis to replace bad alleles in modern tomato varieties with the good alleles.

“We identified the important factors that have been lost and showed how to move them back into the modern types of tomatoes,” said Prof. Harry Klee from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who led the international study. This technique involves classical genetics, not genetic modification, he stressed, adding: “We’re just fixing what has been damaged over the last half-century to push them back to where they were a century ago, taste-wise. We can make the supermarket tomato taste noticeably better.”

Some of these research results were already implemented in the breeding programs of Zamir’s lab. “After testing the varieties at Zamir’s lab, it appears possible to breed for tastier tomatoes with other excellent quality characteristics,” Zemach said.

Read the source article at Jpost

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