What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?
Dead Sea Scrolls were ancient manuscripts found in and around the Qumran Valley near the western shore of the Dead Sea.
The first scrolls were found in 1947 by two Bedouin shepherd boys who were exploring a cave. There they discovered the scrolls wrapped in linen inside some clay jars. The scrolls were eventually taken to Jerusalem, where scholars determined that they had been written between the 2d century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. The age of the documents was confirmed by the discovery of Roman coins and pottery in the cave and by radiocarbon tests on the linen that had been wrapped around the scrolls.
The texts, which were written about the time of Christ, are among the earliest existing manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic.
Once the importance of the scrolls was recognized, archaeologists began
a systematic search of other caves in the area, and they subsequently
found hundreds of documents or fragments. They also found the ruins of
a monastery that may have belonged to the Essenes, a Jewish sect to
whom the Dead Sea Scrolls are ascribed by many scholars.
The Dead Sea Scrolls contain portions of almost all the books of the Old Testament, including the complete books of Isaiah and the Psalms. These texts have been compared with later versions of the Bible to determine the accuracy of the previously received texts. The scrolls also include liturgical and disciplinary rules for members of the sect and, in the "Temple Scroll" discovered in 1967, plans for a great temple and rules on ritual uncleanliness and purification.
Archaeologists believe that the scrolls were hidden in the caves before an attack by the Romans. Discovered arrowheads and ashes indicate that the monastery was captured and burned. Two copper scrolls that were found seem to describe the location of treasure also hidden at that time.