The Dead Sea Scrolls

AT SOME POINT rather early in the spring of 1947, a Bedouin boy called Muhammad the Wolf was minding some goats near a cliff on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Climbing up after one that had strayed, he noticed a cave that he had not seen before and he idly threw a stone into it. There was an unfamiliar sound of breakage. The boy was frightened and ran away. But he later came back with another boy, and together they explored the cave.

Inside were several tall clay jars, among fragments of other jars. When they took off the bowl-like lids, a very bad smell arose, which came from dark oblong lumps that were Found inside all the jars. When they got these lumps out of the cave, they saw they were wrapped up in lengths of linen and coated with a black layer of what seemed to be pitch or wax. They unrolled them and found long manuscripts, inscribed in parallel columns on thin sheets that had been sewn together. Though these manuscripts had faded and crumbled in places. they were in general remarkably clear. The characters, they saw, were not Arabic. They wondered at the scrolls and kept them, carrying them along when they moved.

Edmund Wilson ‘The Scrolls from the Dead Sea’ W. H. Allen 1955