|The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Early in 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy of the Ta'amireh tribe left his flock of sheep and goats to search for a stray amid the crumbling limestone cliffs that line the northwestern rim of the Dead Sea, in the area of Qumran. Spying a cave in the cleft of a steep rocky hillside, he cast a stone into the dark interior and heard something shatter. Intrigued, he later returned with a companion and found a cache of large clay jars, some of which were intact with lids in place, holding promise of hidden treasure from some bygone age.
But most of the jars were empty, and the remaining few concealed nothing but old scrolls wrapped in linen and blackened with age. So unapparent was the great value of this find that, as the story goes, the Bedouins first considered using the scrolls as fuel for fire. Yet when it came to light that the seven scrolls contained biblical texts and other ancient religious writings, this initial discovery was momentous enough to arouse immediate universal interest that continues to this day.
The 1947 discovery of ancient biblical and nonbiblical scrolls and scroll fragments opened the way for a series of similar finds in ten other nearby caves during the next nine years. Known as the Qumran collection, this vast manuscript treasury includes a number of largely complete scrolls and tens of thousands of scroll fragments, representing more than eight hundred different works written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.
Additional scroll fragments were later discovered at several other sites extending south along the western shore of the Dead Sea, from the caves of Murrabba'at and Nahal Hever to the monolithic fortress of Masada. These Judean desert documents are collectively known today as the Dead Sea Scrolls.