After visiting Bet Shean (my personal favorite site), we took a long bus ride down the Jordan. Throughout the trip we could see the river as well as the country, usually staying within 100 yards or so of the border. We drove past the archaeological site at Jericho (which isn't impressive). Our first stop was at Qum'ran.
Now this city was where a bunch of nutters lived quite frankly. There is very little fresh water nearby, though the dead sea is right there. It was a monastery of essenes. It is quite likely that John the Baptist was an essene- a group of people strongly devoted to staying away from the sinful world. They would be baptized every morning and night in order to stay ritually clean. They also devoted themselves to communicating their values through the written word. As the Roman army was overtaking the area shortly before the time of Christ, this group of monks hid their valuables in a nearby cave (the area is littered with limestone caves). Included in the cave were parts of every book of the Bible (except Esther I think), and an entire scroll of Isaiah. There were also fragments of other documents as well These guys liked their apocalyptic prophecy, totally into the end times. Maybe Tim Lahaye is an essene in his own way.
At any rate, one day a shepherd boy was walking around the area looking for his sheep/goats. He thought one had gone into a nearby cave, tossed a rock in to scare the animal out, and heard a shatter. He went in to investigate the noise and found some old scrolls which he sold in the local marketplace. Long story short, they eventually made it into the hands of a collector, who shared the story and every Indiana Jones scrambled through the desert searching caves. There were two caves in which most of the scrolls were stored. And here are pictures:
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