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Set on a cliff in the heart of the Judean Desert, Hyrcania was once a fortified palace used by Hasmoneans and King Herod. To this day, the site has not been excavated, but a reading of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls led to a surprising discovery in the valley beneath the site – Hyrcania’s Mysterious Tunnels.

The Discovery and Excavations of Hyrcania’s Mystery Tunnels

In 1952, a team of French archaeologists made a startling discovery in a cave about 1 mile north of Qumran – the Copper Scroll. The scroll listed 60 hiding locations of tons of gold and silver and what seems to be Jerusalem’s temple treasures. John Allegro, the first scholar to decipher and publish the Copper Scroll, surveyed and excavated at several sites, hoping to unearth some of these treasures. The first paragraph of the scroll describes the hidden treasure: “In the ruin that is in the valley of Achor, under the steps, with the entrance at the east, a distance of forty cubits.“

Allegro suggested that “Achor Valley” is today’s Hyrcania Valley and that “the ruin” refers to Hyrcania itself. In 1960, he spotted two tunnels at the foot of Hyrcania. He began digging one of them but gave up after reaching a depth of 30 meters.

Bob Morgan’s Discrete Excavations

About 25 years later, a commercial pilot and adventurer named Bob Morgan heard about the tunnels, and following Allegro’s directions, he managed to track them. He arranged to meet with Allegro to resume the excavation, but on the day set for the meeting, Allegro died. Morgan secretly dug in the tunnels, but every winter, flash floods filled the tunnels with debris.

Proper Excavations Launched

Finally, in 1999, Bob approached Oren Gutfeld, an archaeology PhD student from Hebrew University, and told him of these tunnels. Oren arranged all the logistics, including air blowers and jackhammers, and they began digging the tunnels systematically. Unfortunately, the Second intifada broke out, and only in 2007 did Oren excavate the two tunnels. The eastern tunnel reached the depth 53 meters, and the western tunnel was 120 meters deep (!). Unfortunately, none of the tunnels yielded any significant findings.

The Enigma of the Tunnels

The mystery of these tunnels remains unresolved. Who dug them? When? And for what? Perhaps the tunnels were indeed hewn to bury the treasures mentioned in the Copper Scrolls, but it was not done in the end. Or perhaps they were intended to lock Herod’s opponents? Or maybe they were part of some strange ritual?? These tunnels, like the Copper Scroll, remain a fascinating and unresolved mystery.

Touring Hyrcania’s Mysterious Tunnels

The tunnels can be reached from the main road along Hyrcania’s valley, and a 2 mile long dirt road.

Contact us to inquire more about a private off-road tour to Hyrcania’s Mysterious Tunnels:

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