JERUSALEM (Feb. 7)
Discoveries of archaeological finds considered by scientists here as of extraordinary importance, including a phylactery scroll and weapons apparently dating back to the era of Bar Kochba, about the year 150 of the Common Era, was announced here today by the Hebrew University.
The discoveries resulted from diggings in a high mountain cave in the Judean Desert-west of the Dead Sea, not far from the site at Kumram, in Jordan, where the famous Dead Sea scrolls had been found in caves. One of the scrolls discovered now antedates the Dead Sea scrolls by about 70 years.
The phylactery (tefillin) scroll contains the first 16 verses of Chapter 13 of the biblical Book of Exodus. It was written on parchment, apparently by an expert, in the same style in which the Dead Sea scrolls has been inscribed. With this parchment, the scientists found papyrus covered with square Hebrew lettering also used in the same period. The papyrus is believed to be part of a letter, but exact deciphering will have to await careful investigation in university laboratories.
Other finds in the cave, the University officials declared, lead to the belief that the cave may have been used as a cache by the Bar Kochba forces. The scientists found ancient coins, arms and ammunition, including arrow shafts painted red and black. The dry climate in the area has apparently preserved not only the items discovered but also the original paint.
In addition to the finds dating to the Bar Kochba era, other discoveries go back to a much earlier period. These include wooden and clay implements and bits of linen and leather dating back as far as the Chalcolitic period, about 4,000 years before the Common Era. The cave yielded also remnants of ancient Roman fortresses believed to have been erected to guard Nahal Taeclin, which is one of the largest canyons north of Massada.
The diggings were carried out by archaeologists of the Hebrew University and the Ministry of Education. University students and residents of nearby settlements assisted the scientists, while the Israel Army built a special camp for the project, and provided transportation.