Ancient Treasures and the Dead Sea Scrolls

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The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls

How were the first scrolls discovered, in 1947? There are different versions of the story. One of the most common accounts is that a young Bedouin shepherd, looking for a lost goat, peered into the opening of a cave and threw a stone inside. The sound it made, as if it had struck a piece of pottery, intrigued the shepherd. When he entered the cave, he found seven ancient scrolls stored in jars-scrolls from which the three fragments displayed here are drawn.

That was only the beginning. Between 1947 and 1956, thousands of fragments would be found by Bedouin and archaeologists in eleven caves located near the ruins at Qumran.

Most of the scrolls were copied between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE, although some are even older. These scrolls are much more ancient than the earliest preserved copies of the Hebrew Bible, dating from the 9th and 10th century.

The text of the scrolls is remarkably close to the Bible as we know it today, evidence of the care with which the scribes copied the texts by hand onto pieces of parchment that were then stitched into scrolls or, in rarer cases, onto papyrus.

One of the caves at Qumran
Cave no.4 at Qumran.
Photo © Michel Lambert