The story goes like this; In 1947 a Bedouin goat herder named Mohammed Ahmed el-Hamed (who was nicknamed "The Wolf." Seriously.) was tending his gang of unruly goats. A rebellious goat wandered off towards a cave. The Wolf tossed a couple rocks in the direction of the wayward goat to get his attention when there was the sound of breaking pottery. Upon investigation, the shepherd found several ancient jars containing scrolls wrapped in linen. Further excavation found jars and scrolls in 11 nearby caves. In total, about 1,000 pieces of ancient writ were recovered.
These documents became known as The Dead Sea Scrolls.
The New York Times is reporting today that the Scrolls are going to made available in their entirety for the first time.
From the Times:
The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century BC to the first century AD.
The entire collection was photographed only once before – in the 1950s using infrared and those photographs are stored in a climate-controlled room since they show things already lost from some of the scrolls. The old infrared pictures will also be scanned in the new digital effort.
Of course the Scrolls are important from a religious standpoint. But just as important is the historical and archeological context. The Scrolls allow the dead to speak. Now anyone, not just a handful of scholars, will have the opportunity to read and study them.