Courtesy Cave of Letters Expedition

Going up! Excavators returned to explore the Cave of Letters in 1999 and 2000. Unlike their predecessors in the 1950s and 1960s, the latest team did not need to rely on rope ladders to gain entry; the aluminum ladder shown here rests on a narrow ledge about 30 feet below the cave’s two entrances. In addition to grappling with the daunting task of simply getting themselves and their equipment into the cave, the current team was forced to do its work in July, when temperatures in the Judean Desert are at their peak. They had little choice, however, because Israel’s Nature Reserves Authority was concerned that they not disturb a flock of vultures in the area during its nesting season.