Fragments of a Biblical scroll and other relics have been found in what officials call an “historic discovery” in desert caves in Israel.
The dozens of pieces of parchment were written in Greek, with just the name of God appearing in Hebrew.
The scroll is believed to have belonged to Jewish rebels who fled to the hills following a failed revolt against Roman rule in the 2nd Century.
They were found during an operation to prevent caves in the area being looted.
It is the first such find of its kind since the early 1960s when similar fragments and some 40 skeletons were discovered at the site which became known as the Cave of Horror.
The newly found remnants contain verses from the books of Zechariah and Nahum, which form part of writings known as the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets.
The parchment had been written in Greek, the language adopted after the conquest of Judea by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC. The name of God, though, exclusively appears in Hebrew.
Israel Antiquities Authority’s (IAA) director Israel Hasson said the scroll and other relics found there were “of immeasurable worth for mankind”.
A cache of rare coins from the period of the Jewish revolt, a 6,000-year-old mummified skeleton of a child and a large intact basket dating from about 10,500 years ago were also discovered at the site.
Located some 80m (260ft) beneath a cliff-top, the cave is practically inaccessible and could only be reached by teams abseiling down to it.
The expedition was part of what the IAA called a “complex and challenging” operation to protect the network of caves from antiquities looters.
Searches of the cliffs and caves in the Judean Desert have yielded a treasure trove of finds over decades, including the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known copies of Biblical books.