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Everything You Need to Know About the Dead Sea Scrolls

Learn about the famous Dead Sea Scrolls found in the Judean Desert in Israel, and why they’re among the most important historical artifacts ever!

In the spring of 1947, a Bedouin goat-herder stumbled upon a cave full of jars filled with mysterious ancient manuscripts. Little did he know that he had just made the greatest archeological discovery of modern times – the Dead Sea Scrolls! Between 1947 and 1956, excavations would uncover manuscripts from eleven different caves on the northwestern shores of the Dead Sea in Israel’s Judean hills and desert, shedding considerable light on the history of the Bible and the Jewish people in ancient times.


The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel


Today, these Dead Sea Scrolls are on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and are continuing to be studied by historians and admired by people the world over.

Below are 10 fascinating facts about this revolutionary discovery!


10 Amazing Facts About the Dead Sea Scrolls

Cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls, known as Qumran cave 4, one of the caves in which the scrolls were found at the ruins of Khirbet Qumran in the Judean desert, Israel


1) The Dead Sea Scrolls were likely written from about 200 B.C. to 68 C.E., making them the oldest group of Biblical manuscripts ever found.

2) The vast majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls survived as fragments. Nevertheless, scholars have managed to reconstruct from these fragments approximately 850 different manuscripts of various lengths, including from every book of the Hebrew canon except for the Book of Esther.

3) The scrolls also include also various non-Biblical writings, including commentaries on the Oral Torah, rules regarding communal living and war conduct, songs, prayers, and wisdom writings.

4) The Dead Sea Scrolls are mostly written in Hebrew and Aramaic. Aramaic was the common language of the Jews of the Land of Israel for the last two centuries B.C. and of the first two centuries A.D. In addition, there are a few texts written in Greek.


One of the Dead Sea Scrolls, today housed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel


5) The Dead Sea Scrolls appear to be the library of an ascetic Jewish sect, the Essenes, a strict Torah-observant, Messianic, apocalyptic, wilderness Jewish sect. They were led by a priest they called the "Teacher of Righteousness," and they apparently hid these scrolls in Judean caves around the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt (A.D. 66-70) as the Roman army got closer to their hideout.

6) The “Copper Scroll” records a list of 64 underground hiding places throughout the Land of Israel. They are supposed to contain certain amounts of gold, silver, incense, and other manuscripts, which were believed to be treasures from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem that were hidden away for safekeeping.

7) The longest scroll is the “Temple Scroll”, with a total length of 26.7 feet (8.148 meters).

8) The Dead Sea Scrolls contain previously unknown stories about Biblical figures such as Enoch, Abraham, and Noah.

9) Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls actually appeared for sale on June 1, 1954, in the Wall Street Journal. The advertisement read: "The Four Dead Sea Scrolls: Biblical manuscripts dating back to at least 200 BC are for sale."

10) The scrolls are most commonly made of animal skins, but also papyrus and one from copper. They are written with a carbon-based ink, from right to left, using no punctuation except for an occasional paragraph indentation.


Are you inspired by the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls? Check out a magnificent reproduction of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls - available on our site through an exclusive partnership with the Israel Museum!

Shop other amazing, historical gifts from the Israel Museum here, and check out this handy gift guide.



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