David Harris

Ever the showman, Yigael Yadin pulls out for the benefit of the cameras a group of objects found in a basket on the first day of his 1961 exploration of the Cave of Letters. In the basket were a sickle, wooden bowls, a woman’s sandals, keys and cutlery. Beneath the basket lay a goatskin filled with 35 papyrus rolls, which proved to be legal documents belonging to a second-century C.E. woman named Babatha. This archive, and the Bar-Kokhba letters found the previous year, sealed Yadin’s view of the cave. He believed it had been a second-century C.E. hideout for Jewish rebels. So compelling was Yadin’s vision that Aharoni’s earlier view of the cave as having also been occupied in the first-century C.E. was nearly forgotten.