What Happened When

The Dead Sea Scrolls and why they matter

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The Dead Sea Scrolls have a long, complicated and mysterious history and many “facts” have been lost in the intervening years. The timeline below presents, as accurately as possible, the events surrounding the discovery and acquisition of the scrolls and the players involved.

Nov 1946 – Feb 1947
Muhammed edh-Dhib Hassan and at least two other Bedouin discover the first cave and scrolls while sheparding sheep (or goats) near the Dead Sea

Mar 1947
The Bedouin begin seeking a buyer for the scrolls

Apr 1947
Khalil Iskander a.k.a. Kando acquires three scrolls (1QIsaiaha; 1QpHab; and 1QS-the Community Rule)

May/June 1947
Bedouin sell scrolls 1QIsaiahb; 1QM-the War Scroll; and 1Q35 to Fiedi Salahi

July 5, 1947
Kando sells his three scrolls to Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Athanasius Yeshue Samuel who tries for months to have them authenticated

Nov 23, 1947
Eleazar Lipa Sukenik is contacted by Mister X about Salahi’s scrolls and gets his first glimpse of a scroll fragment through the barbed-wire fence in Jerusalems Military Zone B

Nov 27, 1947
Sukenik meets with Mister X at his shop in the Old City

Nov 29, 1947
Sukenik and Mister X make the bus trip to Bethlehem to visit Salahi. Sukenik arranges purchase. The United Nations votes to partition Palestine

Feb 1948
Reverend Butros Sowmy, Mar Samuel’s assistant, calls the American School of Oriental Research about the scrolls. John C. Trever, acting director of the school invites Sowmy to bring the scrolls to the school

Mar 15, 1948
Trever photographs the scrolls and sends a copy to famed American scholar William F. Albright, who authenticates the date of the scrolls to about 100 B.C.

Mar 25, 1948
Sowmy takes the scrolls to Beirut for safekeeping

Jan 29, 1949
Mar Samuel arrives in the United States with the scrolls and meets with Trever

Feb 15 – Mar 1949
Père Roland De Vaux and G. Lankester Harding excavate Cave 1 recovering more fragments

Nov 24 – Dec 12, 1951
de Vaux and Harding begin excavating Qumran, an ancient settlement near Cave 1

Feb 1952
Cave 2 is discovered

Mar 10-20, 1952
Explorations of surrounding caves and discovery of Cave 3

Aug 1952
Cave 4 discovered by Bedouin, 80% of scrolls removed. The Palestine Archaeological Museum begins purchasing them from Kando

Sep 22-29, 1952
de Vaux and his team excavate Cave 4

Sep 1952
Cave 5 is discovered by Jozef T. Milik, Cave 6 is discovered nearby

Jun 1954
Mar Samuel places ad in The Wall Street Journal for the Four Dead Sea Scrolls

Jun 11, 1954
Yigael Yadin, Sukenik’s son, secretly arranges purchase of the four scrolls

Feb 13, 1955
Yadin announces the return of the scrolls to Israel

Feb-Apr 1955
Caves 7, 8, 9, and 10 discovered

Feb 1956
Cave 11 discovered by Bedouin

Jun 1967
Yadin seizes the Temple Scroll from Kando

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  • Brent says

    I’ve re-examined the chronology and somehow it sounds legit but 2000 years of overlooking these DSS since 250BC – 1947AD comes across a little too surreal and yet a little too extraordinary. Its pretty hard to accept as some legitimate find. I’ll need to think about it.

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