Oldest Basket Ever Found is Part of Dramatic Discovery in Israel’s “Cave of Horror”

Credit: Yaniv Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority

The oldest known woven basket ever found is one of a startling range of artifacts discovered during a cave search in the Judean Desert.

This ancient 92 liter container – located in Muraba ‘at Cave, as written by the Jerusalem Post – was buried in 3 feet of soil according to the Xinhua News Agency.

It has been dated back approx 10,500 years, or to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic Period. The lid was on and the basket virtually empty. Experts from Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) don’t know the exact plant it’s made from, but soil inside the basket may help them establish the long-abandoned contents.

Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Some intriguing details have emerged after 4 parts of the basket were analyzed. Quoted by the Jerusalem Post, Dr Haim Cohen stated: “we can already say that two people wove it, and that one of them was left-handed.”

If the IAA don’t excavate the area, others will. After signs of disturbance were observed at these precious hideaways, the Authority decided to move in to quash looters… though as the Post reports, thieves apparently came within a hair-raising 10 cm of nabbing the artifact!

Many items including these arrowheads have been found. (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Judean Desert possesses the perfect climate for preserving materials that would otherwise disintegrate. Dry conditions mean good news for archaeologists but also opportunists.

Thankfully the IAA has managed to make stunning discoveries through their efforts. The most high profile of these, recently reported, was a group of fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

ABC News writes they are “the first new scrolls found in archaeological excavations in the desert south of Jerusalem in 60 years.”

Dating from the 2nd century, they feature the words of Zechariah and Nahum – 2 of the 12 minor prophets – and are written in Greek. The first Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered in desert caves during the 1940s-50s.

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As ABC and other outlets write, the fragments possibly wound up in the so-called “Cave of Horror” sometime between 132 – 136 AD. This would have happened against the backdrop of the Bar Kochba Revolt, where the Jews violently rose up against Emperor Hadrian.

The title “Cave of Horror” comes from the grisly find of 40 human skeletons in the 1960s – arguably even more dramatic than “new” scrolls coming to light.

A child’s skeleton, thought to be approx 6,000 years old, has been unearthed and reported on in recent days. The body is believed to be of a girl aged between 6 and 12 years.

Writing about the assorted coverage, Science Alert says the skeleton was “naturally mummified in the dry atmosphere of the cave, which can only be accessed by climbing ropes.” Remarkably her hair, skin and tendons were still intact to a small degree.

A lice comb from the Bar Kochba Jewish revolt period is among the artefacts discovered. (Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Friends of the IAA website states the location is “roughly 80 meters below the cliff top, is flanked by gorges and can only be reached by rappelling precariously down the sheer cliff.” Both experts and scavengers take their lives in their hands exploring the cave!

Quoted by Xinhua, Dr Cohen expresses excitement over the ancient basket’s potential and impact on future research. “The time this basket was made is long before ceramics was invented,” he comments, “and ceramics is the last language of archaeologists”.

The Heritage Crafts Association writes that basket-making, or basketry, is “widely believed to be the oldest craft in the world”, as well as “the most ubiquitous”. Evidence of the process has been found across the globe.

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From human remains to historical teachings, the IAA are delving into the past and shining a spotlight on a diverse collection of astonishing artifacts. A simple basket may not seem like the most attention-grabbing, but it plays a small yet essential role in building a picture of life back then…

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