One of the most important archaeological achievements of the Twentieth Century was the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the largest and oldest repository of ancient Jewish texts currently available. The discovery of these scrolls has provided scholars with ground breaking information regarding Judaism and Christianity during the Late Second Temple Period (200 BCE – 70 CE).
What Are the Dead Sea Scrolls?
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of writings that include both complete texts and several fragmented texts. The majority of the scrolls were written between 150 BC and 70 CE, predominantly in Hebrew, although some are in Aramaic and Greek. The scrolls were produced by the Essenes – a Jewish sect that resided in the JudeanDesertnear the Dead Sea, in the ancient town of Qumran. The scrolls were kept in eleven caves and placed inside ceramic jars for safekeeping.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947 by an Arab shepherd. After a series of long and complicated negotiations, Israeli Archaeology Professors Elazar Soukenik and Benjamin Mazar succeeded in purchasing some of the most important scrolls. Many of the remaining scrolls and scroll fragments were put in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control from 1949 to 1967. After Israel took control of the area in 1967, the scrolls were moved to the Jerusalem Museum, in the Shrine of the Book Museum, where they reside today.