The Dead Sea Scrolls rank as one of the great archaeological discoveries of all time. They are the written
record of the core beliefs, philosophies and precepts of a community that flourished in the Holy Land two
thousand years ago. These ancient Hebrew manuscripts raise many questions about the foundations of both Judaism and
Christianity. The role of the mysterious group who created the scrolls has acted as a source of fascination
and debate since the discovery of the scrolls in 1947.
Highlights include one of the oldest surviving portions of the Hebrew Bible - a text from the Book of Exodus
dating from around 100 BCE, a large and beautifully preserved section of the Psalms with the Holy Name
of God clearly written in the Hebrew script of the time of King David, and several texts written during the
lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth.
Also on display will be a selection of objects excavated from the adjacent site of Khirbet Qumran, believed
to have been the home of the people who wrote and preserved the scrolls.
In 1947 seven scrolls encased in clay jars were discovered by Bedouin
shepherds in a cave on the shores of the Dead Sea, and led to further
discoveries around Khirbet Qumran, south of Jericho in Israel, during
extensive archaeological work. Over 800 manuscripts were found during the
next decade, and with other finds in the Qumran area, were dated from the
4th century BCE (Before Common Era) through to the 1st century CE (Common
Many scholars believe the Scrolls were created by the Essenes, a group of
sectarians who broke away from mainstream Judaism and set out to live a
communal life in the desert. When the Romans invaded their community around
68 CE, the sectarians hid their manuscripts in the nearby caves. The Scrolls
are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek and contain texts from the Hebrew
Bible as well as documents relating to the life of this unusual community.
For more than forty years, only a few scholars had access to the scrolls, to
work on translating and piecing together the hundreds of thousands of
fragments. When access was increased in 1991 to scholars around the world,
the pace of research and publication increased. Now the Dead Sea Scrolls
Publication Project is finally nearing completion, and the Scrolls now
provide a much deeper understanding of the history of religious traditions
in the Western World.