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In 1951 a set of Nabataean manuscripts surfaced in the Middle East. They were purportedly from Wadi Sayaal, on the west side of the Dead Sea. The manuscripts included some twenty items, Some of them were long (dozens of lines of text) and some were small. Ten of the items are precisely dated, and of these five are dated before 106 AD.

Later in 1961, Israeli archeologists exploring caves came across a cave that still contained a fragment of one of the earlier finds. This cave is now known as “The Cave of Letters.”

The twenty odd items were all part of an archive of documents from the Babatha family, most of them dealing with family property.

While some of the research and translations of these texts are now coming out, to date there has been no comprehensive publication of these manuscripts.

An Inventory of the Nabataean Texts on Paprus and Leather as found in the Cave of Letters

John F. Healey

Compiled for the Nabataean Conference, October 2002

Siglum Material Type Dates A.D.
(Chronology of Wenning 1993)
(DCL I = Lewis 1989, DCL II = Yadin et al. 2002)
Yadin 1 papyrus Debenture 8 Elul 923 DCL II
Yadin 2 papyrus Sale Contract 3 Kislev 978 DCL II
Yadin 3 papyrus Sale Contract 2 Tebet 978 DCL II
Yadin 4 papyrus Guarantor’s agreement ? 978 DCL II
Yadin 6 papyrus Tenency agreement 119 AD DCL II
Yadin 9 papyrus Waiver? 122 AD DCL II papyrus
Unclassified fragments Early 2nd Cent.? DCL II pl. 56; Yardeni 2000a The fragments do not relate to Yadin 9 on the same plate
Yadin 36 + Xhev/Se Nab.1 papyrus Redemtion of writ of seizure Between 59 and 65 AD Yardeni 2001 XHev/Se Nab1 alone = Starly paurus (1954)
Yadin 38 papyrus Fragment with signature of witness Unkown Transliteration only DCL II, [5] b]r tym’lhy sh[d
Yadin 39 papyrus Unclassified frament Late 1st5 or 2nd cent.? Yardeni 2000a
XHev/Se Nab 2 papyrus Sale Contract Late 1st cent.? Yardeni 2000a
XHev/Se Nab 3 papyrus Contract Unknown Tov 1993: 40.659, 40.660
XHev/Se Nab 4 papyrus Contract Unknown Tov 1993:40.663
XHev/Se Nab 5 papyrus Contract Unknown Tov 1993: 40.646 40.647
XHev/Se Nab 6 papyrus Unclassified fragment Unknown unpublished
P. Mur. 71 papyrus Unclassified fragment Late 1st or early 2nd cent.? Benoit et al. 1961 (DJD XXVII) Murrabba’aat
Bodleian MS Heb. d. 89 (P) (e) papyrus Unclassified fragments Late 2nd cent.? Yardeni 200a Oxyrhynchus
Yadin 15 papyrus Subscription on Greek legal text 1112 Oct 125 AD DCL I
Yadin 22 papyrus Subscription on Greek legal text 11 Sept. 130 AD DCL I

Nabataean documents found in the Qumran Caves (Cave 4)

Siglum Material Type Dates A.D.
(Chronology of Wenning 1993)
Published Notes
4Q343 leather letter 1st cent.? Cotton and Yardeni 1997 (DJD XXVII) Qumran Cave 4

Two good books about the Cave of Scrolls

The Documents from the Bar Kokhba period in the Cave of Letters: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Nabatean-Aamaic Papyri (Judean Desert studies)

Publisher: Shrine of the Book (January 1, 2002)

Language: English ISBN: 9652210463

The Finds from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters.


Jerusalem,, Israel Exploration Society, 1963

279 pp., with 94 figs. & 108 plates (12 in color), 1 folding plan & 21 tables

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