08 May 2011

The Discovery

We are in the year 1947, the place is a desolate land between the hills of the Judean desert and the flats of the north shore of the Dead Sea.  This place is called Qumran,  very close to Jerusalem, the heart of Israel.    This area is mostly populated by Bedouins, that according to their nomad culture, they move their villages looking for better pastures.

Muhammed "The Wolf"

Our men are the Bedouin   Muhammed edh-Dhib, called “The Wolf” and his cousin Jum’a Muhammed. In this winter day of the 1947 they are very agitated, per lustrating the area of Qumran. They have lost a goat, and for Bedouins to lose a goat means to lose food and richness. They are looking everywhere and Muhammed “The Wolf” decides to enter in an abandoned old cave, to check if the goat is hidden inside.
He couldn’t find the stray goat, but came back with an old jar. Never has the loss of a goat been so fruitful.
Inside the jar in fact, he found three ancient manuscripts, what we call today “The Dead Sea Scrolls”.He then returned to his nomad tent camp to show the discovery to the other Bedouins. He had in his hands the Complete Isaiah Scroll, the Manual of Discipline and the Habakkuk Commentary, one of   the oldest written documents in the history of mankind, since we can collocate them between 220 B.C. and 68 A.C.  Muhammed edh-Dhib,  “The Wolf”, had  no a complete  understanding of the sensational importance and value of the texts discovered. They tried to sell the scroll to the local market, and at the beginning they found difficulties in doing this as  dealers thought that the scrolls were been stolen from synagogues.  Probably Bedouins had a very bad reputation.

First negotations of the Scrolls
After several months they offered the Scrolls to Khalil Eskander Shahin, "Kando," a cobbler and part-time antiques dealer. Kando took a scroll for himself and was able to sell three of them to a dealer for the unbelievable prize of £7 GBP ($29 in 2003 US dollars)!!!!
Kando and the Bedouins went back to the discovery site and they found other scrolls in 11 different caves. At this point someone realised the priceless value of these manuscripts. The Metropolitan Bishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church wanted to examine them and, understanding their antiquity, he managed to buy four of them:  Isaiah Scroll, the Community Rule, the Habakkuk Pesher (a commentary on the book of Habakkuk), and the Genesis Apocryphon.
Other three rolls soon appeared in the antiquates market and Israeli archaeologists at Hebrew University, Professor Eleazer Sukenik and Professor Benjamin Mazar, were able to purchase them.

At this stage the entire world has understood the immense value of the Scrolls. The University of California did analyse the Scroll with sophisticated tests and  attested their  authenticity. Many organizations and museums  wanted to buy them, trying to reunite the collection by purchasing them  from the different owners, but no one  succeeded. Now the price went up dramatically and it was even difficult to estimate them.

"Scrolls on Sale"
On the 1st of June 1954, the Wall Street Journal of New York had a very unusual advertisement: “Dead Sea Scrolls on sale”! After a month, and most of all, after a delicate negotiation, they were sold for  US$250,000 ($2.04 million in present-day terms). The buyers were Prof. Mazar and the son of Prof. Sukenik Yigael Yadin and they brought the Scrolls to Jerusalem, where they were on display at the Rockefeller Museum. After the Six-Day War, they were moved to the Shrine of the Book, where you can find them today.

Davies, PR, Dead Sea Scrolls, Encyclopaedia Britannica, viewed 6 May 2011,
Learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, All about Archaeology, viewed 7 May 2011,  <http://www.allaboutarchaeology.org/qumran-caves-faq.htm>
The Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, West Semitic Research Project, viewed 7 May 2011,
‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ 2011, Wikipedia, viewed 6 May 2011,

Images Taken from “All About Archaeology”, published by AllAboutGOD.com Ministries, M. Houdmann, P. Matthews-Rose, R. Niles, editors, 2002-2011. Used by permission."
‘qumran-cave-1952-1’ [image], All about Archaeology, viewed 6 May 2001,

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