Summary and Discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls

Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls :

The Dead Sea Scrolls comprise roughly 850 documents, including texts from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the Wadi Qumran, near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The texts are of great significance, as they are practically the only remaining Biblical documents dating from before A.D. 100.

The most well-known texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient religious writings found in eleven caves near the site of Qumran.
 
Qumran Caves Scrolls
The Qumran Caves Scrolls contain significant religious literature. They consist of two types: “biblical” manuscripts—books found in today’s Hebrew Bible, and “non-biblical” manuscripts—other religious writings circulating during the Second Temple era, often related to the texts now in the Hebrew Bible. Of this second category, some are considered “sectarian” in nature, since they appear to describe the religious beliefs and practices of a specific religious community.
Scroll dates range from the third century bce (mid–Second Temple period) to the first century of the Common Era, before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce. While Hebrew is the most frequently used language in the Scrolls, about 15% were written in Aramaic and several in Greek. The Scrolls’ materials are made up mainly of parchment, although some are papyrus, and the text of one Scroll is engraved on copper.
 
Biblical Manuscripts : About 230 manuscripts are referred to as “biblical Scrolls”. These are copies of works that are now part of the Hebrew Bible. They already held a special status in the Second Temple period, and were considered to be vessels of divine communication. Evidence suggests that the Scrolls' contemporary communities did not have a unified conception of an authoritative collection of scriptural works. The idea of a closed biblical “canon” only emerged later in the history of these sacred writings.
Among the Scrolls are partial or complete copies of every book in the Hebrew Bible (except the book of Esther). About a dozen copies of some of these holy books were written in ancient paleo-Hebrew (the script of the First Temple era, not the standard script of the time).
Many biblical manuscripts closely resemble the Masoretic Text, the accepted text of the Hebrew Bible from the second half of the first millennium ce until today. This similarity is quite remarkable, considering that the Qumran Scrolls are over a thousand years older than previously identified biblical manuscripts.
Strikingly, some biblical manuscripts feature differences from the standard Masoretic biblical language and spelling. Additions and deletions in certain texts imply that the writers felt free to modify texts they were copying.
Non-Biblical Manuscripts  :  The Qumran Caves Scrolls preserve a large range of Jewish religious writings from the Second Temple period, including parabiblical texts, exegetical texts, hymns and prayers, wisdom texts, apocalyptic texts, calendrical texts, and others. Some of the works discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls were known previously, having been preserved in translation since Second Temple times. The term "Pseudepigrapha" was used for these works, such as the book of Jubilees which was known in Ethiopic and Greek versions before being found in Hebrew in the Qumran caves. Many other non-biblical works were previously unknown.
Scholars agree that some of this literature was valued by large segments of the Jewish population, while other works reflect the beliefs of specific sub-groups. There is disagreement, however, about many other aspects of these texts, including which communities are represented and how those communities may have interacted with one another.
 

Main Source : The Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library:

http://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/learn-about-the-scrolls/introduction

Qumran annotated

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.

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The Scriptorium - the room used to write the scrolls

Summary and Discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls