Excavation and Conservation
Although the site at Qumran was known to explorers from around the mid nineteenth century, it was widely considered to be no more than a desert fortress and did not attract any particular attention. All this changed, however, in 1947, when a young shepherd boy, Muhammad Adh-Dhib lost one of his goats. During his search, he came across a cave containing several stone jars in which were stored the rolls of parchment that have now come to be known as The Dead Sea Scrolls. The finding of the caves, and the scrolls came to public attention when a local shopkeeper, realising the potential worth of the documents, took them to the Syrian Metropolitan, who in turn tried to have the scrolls dated and authenticated. Full excavation of the caves began in 1949. The two men put in charge of these excavations were Father de Vaux and Gerald Lankester Harding. Between 1948 and 1952 a total of 250 caves were identified and examined, although only eleven contained scrolls. One of the most notable finds was the copper scroll found in cave 3. Having found the scrolls, great interest arose around the question of who had placed them in these caves and who, if any could be indentified, were the authors. Naturally the close proximity of the ruins at Qumran promised to yield the answers to these and other questions. With this in mind, excavation began at the ruins in 1951 and the site was almost totally excavated during the following five years.