Plain unadorned linen may provide vital clues
Nearly 200 textiles have been discovered in caves on the West Bank, at Qumran, which may solve the mystery of the creators of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
It appears that they may have been written by a sectarian group called the Essenes.
The authorship of the scrolls has been a matter of debate ever since their accidental discovery by a shepherd. That mystery, along with the puzzle of how they got to Qumran, may become clearer with the discovery of these fabrics.
All the textiles were made of linen, rather than wool, which was the preferred textile used in ancient Israel. Also they lack decoration, some actually being bleached white, even though fabrics from the period often have vivid colours. Altogether, researchers say these finds suggest that the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect, "penned" some of the scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in eleven caves along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea between the years 1947 and 1956. They are the oldest Biblical writings known, and include material -- such as hymns, rules, and prophesies -- that are not found in the Bible. They are mostly written in Hebrew, but some are in Aramaic.
One, known as the "Copper Scroll," lists 64 hiding places where worldly treasure such as gold, and spiritual treasure -- more manuscripts -- could be found.