The perfect place to preserve ancient artifacts would be on the northern shore of the Dead Sea as it is an especially dry, and water less place with extremely low humidity levels. In the Spring of 1947, two young Bedouin shepherds, Muhammed Edh-Dhib, and his cousin Jum’a Muhammed, were on the search for a lost goat among the cliffs around the area known as Qumran. As they moved from cave to cave, they stumbled upon a hoard of jars containing numerous papyrus and parchment manuscripts. These scrolls did not come to the attention of the public, and the intrigue of scholars until a year later, in 1948 when the Bedouin sold seven of the texts to a local antiquities dealer named Kando. He in turn sold three to a professor at Hebrew University, and four to an Archbishop at Syrian Orthodox monastery of St. Mark. The Archbishop in turn brought the scrolls to the attention of European and American academics which brought intense excitement throughout the global community of historians. Little did they know that they were dealing with one of the most important discoveries of the century, the dead sea scrolls.
It 1949, the site where the scrolls were found was identified as Qumran Cave 1, and was given a thorough archaeological survey. Upon further excavations, pieces of cloth, pottery, and wood were uncovered along with fragments of additional manuscripts. The discovery of these scripts led to the confirmation these the scrolls were ancient and authentic. Between 1949 and 1956, the Beduoin’s and the archaeologists located ten additional caves found in the hills of Qumran, which surrendered a few more scrolls, plus thousands of scroll fragments. There were the remains of around 850 manuscripts which dated back to 68 C.E, which placed them around the time of Jesus Christ. The caves were numbered in the order which they were explored, and cave four, found in 1952, provided the biggest haul of relics with 15,000 fragments of 500 different scroll manuscripts.
What scientists have discovered is that the texts formed the library of a Jewish sect, similar to the Essene’s, which were a strict Torah-observing society who disliked the established priesthood. It is theorized that the Qumran ruins were apart of their society, and the scrolls were hidden from the invading Roman army around 70 AD. What is truly remarkable is not so much the history of the dead sea scrolls, but what is actually written on them.
The scroll manuscripts have been decoded and reassembled by adept modern scholars. The scrolls fall into two categories: texts detailing religious aspects, and the other revealing details of daily lives and history. There are early copies of biblical books in Hebrew, and Aramaic, such as all but one book of the Old Testament. Also, unknown stories about Enoch, Abraham, and Noah, and prophecies attributed to Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel which do not appear in the Bible are found on the scrolls. Several of the scrolls explain laws and codes of battle, whereas some narrate poems and philosophies of wise men. Curiously, the most mysterious information contained in the scrolls is a list of 64 places around Israel where ancient treasures are buried. It is strongly believed that not only treasure such as gold and silver were hidden there, but many holy artifacts were also concealed for safekeeping.
Although the scrolls were all uncovered within eight years of each other, the collection was dispersed throughout museums, universities, and scholastic institutions around the world. Some were even found to have been advertised for sale in the Wall Street Journal in the mid 1950s. As the scrolls were in dreadful condition, it was tricky to discern what the texts actually said. Much of the work done in the 1960s and 1970s remained unpublished, inevitably leading to the waning of public interest. However, within the last few decades, there has been a revitalized interest in the scrolls leading to dedicated individuals providing translations, photographs, and explanations of these mysterious manuscripts. While the dead sea scrolls represent an amazing piece of history that was once lost, they only offer a hint of truth closer to the Biblical aspects of our world.