The Dead Sea Scrolls


Amman, Down Town


The Dead Sea Scrolls are written documents that date from the third century BC to the first AD. They contain some of the oldest-known copies of biblical books, as well as hymns, prayers, and other important writings. Most of the writings are in old Hebrew but here are also Aramaic, Greek and Nabataean texts among them.

The majority of the scrolls are of leather parchment, some of papyrus, and only one is an inscribed copper sheet. This one and only Copper Scroll is made of 99% copper metal and dates from the first century AD. It now has its own special climate controlled display at The Jordan Museum.

The scrolls were first discovered by a Palestinaian Bedouinshepherd in 1947> He sold seven scrolls to antiquities dealers which created a stir at the time and some were illegally smuggled and sold in the USA. Some of these scrolls were acquired by the Hebrew University and are now exhibited in the “Shrien of the Book” Museum in West Jerusalem.

The location of the first cave containing scrolls is at around 12 km south of Jericho in the cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea. The shepherd kept the location of his discovery secretive but, in early 1949, the Jordainan army officer Akkash al Zabn managed to find it.

Al Zabn informed archaeologists at the Palestine Archaeological Museum of his findings and proper archaeological investigations of the area were started, under the supervision of archagelicast G.L. Harding (Director of Antiquities of Jordan) and Father de Vaux (director of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem).

Archaeologists found various scrolls in 11 caves in the area. They also excavated at the nearby Khirbat Qumran where the people who wrote (and collected) the scrolls may have lived. According to Classical writers, the community at Qumran was part of a religious fundamentalist Jewish group called the “Essenes”, who had their own philosophy and led a very strict way of life with rigorous rituals.

Between 1947 and 1956, over 100,000 fragments that made up more than 900 documents were discovered. Some were found during archaeological excavations but others were chance finds that found their way into the antiquities market. This prompted the Palestine Museum and the Jordanian Government to purchase as much as possible of the fragments to save them from disappearing on the international market. Major purchases were made by both entities in 1952, supplemented by donations from international institutions at the time. By 1963, however, the Jordanian Government had paid back all the donated money to the respective institutions.

All of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display in the special room at The Jordan Museum come from archaeological excavations, which were carried out at a time when the West Bank (including the site) was part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Text from Jordan Museum

Photos Credit: Wikimedia