The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of nine hundred and eighty one texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. These scrolls with the text written on it are of significant importance as they include the earliest known manuscripts that survived the age of time. These scripts were later included in the Hebrew Bible and it also holds manuscripts that held evidence of the diversity of religious beliefs of the late Second Temple Judaism. The text on the Dead Sea Scrolls is written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabatean and date back as far as 408 BC.
As far as the theory of the origin of the seven scrolls found in the Qumran Caves, most believe that they were a product of an elite sect of Jews living in the area and they were called the Essenes. That has been challenged throughout the years and has become somewhat of a religious battle as to who really wrote these ancient pieces of literature.
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls happened in the spring of 1947 when goat herders searched for lost goats and came upon a cave with jars filled with manuscripts. These Bedouins sold them to a cobbler and antiquities dealer named Kando. He then sold three jars to the Hebrew University and the other four jars to Metropolitan Mar Athanasius Yeshue Samuel of the Syrian Orthodox monastery of St. Mark. The latter brought the manuscripts under the attention of the American School of Oriental Research and thus it came under the attention of the American and European scholars who had knowledge of these ancient scrolls.
The cave where these seven scrolls were found was only identified in 1949 and is nowadays known as the Qumran Cave 1. Further excavations found pottery, wood, cloth and more manuscripts. Between 1949 and 1956 more caves were discovered and a total of ten caves held even more scrolls. The 972 manuscripts found at Qumran were found primarily as scrolls and as fragments of previous scrolls and texts. Some of these fragments were rediscovered within the library in Israel in 2014 and is now under intense studies to determine what they have written on them.
The greater part of Dead Sea Scrolls were written in Hebrew, the collection also includes many Aramaic and Greek texts, as well as some Arabic texts and a small number of Latin insertions. The Scrolls written in Hebrew include biblical texts, non-biblical literary works, and documents such as deeds and letters. There are a variety of Aramaic dialects such as official Aramaic, Jewish Palestinian Aramaic, Nabatean, and Christian Palestinian Aramaic. All Greek texts among the parchments are written in koine, the common dialect of the post-classical Hellenistic and Roman worlds and the New Testament language. A total of twenty seven Greek manuscripts have been identified from the Qumran caves. The Latin parchments were by Roman soldiers who were stationed in the area and included hospital supplies, pay sheets and other notes. More than one hundred Arabic manuscripts were part of the scrolls.
The conservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls was of utmost importance to the scientists and scholars. Due to the Judean Desert being four hundred meters below sea level and within a constant arid climate, stable humidity and temperature, these scrolls survived. The fact that for over two thousand years the scrolls had been preserved in a relatively stable environment in the dark caves, made it being removed even more fragile in their current state of being passed around. Since the scrolls have been placed in the possession of the Israel Antiquities Authority, they set systems in place to preserve them. Current day preservation includes very technical systems that even allow scholars to examine and study these parchments without being touched.
Since April 1965, most of the Dead Sea Scrolls are in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in a section called Shrine of the Book. Other exhibits, including the permanent exhibit, are reproductions of the Great Isaiah Scroll, Community Rule, War Scroll and Thanksgiving Psalms Scroll. In the National Archaeological Museum of Jordan in Amman, some of the scrolls that were collected prior to 1967, are on display. The display also includes artifacts from the Qumran Caves and the Copper Scroll.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are exhibited in other countries by moving them from place to place. Exhibits have been held in the United States of America, Japan, throughout Europe and as far as Australia. After each exhibit, the parchments need to undergo a year of rest before traveling again.
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