The Qumran Caves and Their Role in History – and How You Can See Them in Full Colour

Who would think that a Bedouin boy would play a major role in helping the world discover the Dead Sea Scrolls? The discovery allowed scholars to add more to their knowledge of ancient history and religion. The Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient scrolls of the Hebrews that were kept in several caves in the Judean desert in Israel. The boy accidentally chanced upon the caves in 1947 while looking for his stray goat.

The boy, a Ta’amireh shepherd named Muhammed Edh-Dhib, went into an untouched cave in the Qumran region where his search for the goat led to the discovery of 7 large scrolls from Cave I. He found 7 ancient scrolls inside jars in the cave, which led to the discovery of several other caves and more scrolls that were eventually called the Dead Sea Scrolls.  

The scrolls

Overall, 11 caves containing scrolls and a site that suggested ancient habitation were discovered. The area where the caves are located has been searched and excavated exhaustedly. The discovery renewed scholarly interest because the scrolls revealed history from the Second Temple period, from 520 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. when monotheistic religions were formed. In all, 929 texts-scrolls were discovered. They were all stored in jars inside the caves.

The first 7 scrolls, which have already been published, were found in the first cave. They are on display at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book, in Jerusalem. At the Amman Museum in Jordan is the Copper Scroll that was found in the third cave. Of great significance is that some of the texts from the scrolls are very similar to the teachings of Jesus that are included in the New Testament.

Visiting the Qumran region

The ancient Qumran region is a popular tourist attraction, managed by the Qumran National Park and under the National Parks Authority of Israel. If you are visiting Israel, the Qumran Visitors Center has a presentation about the Qumran settlement and the scrolls. It also has become a popular site for rappelling, speleo (caving and searching, finding and studying caves) and canyoning.

Visit the site of Khirbet Qumran and view the caves and the surrounding areas in their natural splendour. It is found in the West Bank, close to the Dead Sea’s northern edge. You can join an organised full-day group tour that includes stopping by the Dead Sea, the Masada site and the Qumran site.

You can also go on a day tour on your own with a licenced guide who will take you in his car, so you can explore the area closely. The drive takes about 40 minutes each way. It is possible to visit Qumran any time of the year. Just make sure that you wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Also, be sure to have plenty of water. For overnight stays, the closest lodgings are at Kibbutz Kalia.

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