Exhibiting them publicly, he found a buyer, who at first was anonymous. This was the Israeli general and archeologist Yigael Yadin, who bought the scrolls for 250,000 dollars and took them back to Israel, where the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum was built to house them. Yadin's father Professor E. L. Sukenik was able to buy five other scrolls from an antique dealer in Jerusalem. Two copper scrolls were acquired by the Jordanian government and are now in Amman Museum.Altogether more than 500 Hebrew, Aramaic and occasionally also Greek manuscripts, ten of them almost completely preserved, have been found in eleven caves at Qumran. The scrolls, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, were kept in pottery jars with lids. Almost all the texts are on parchment. Dating from the first century B.C. and the first century A.D., they are the oldest surviving manuscripts of the Bible. They include all the books of the Old Testament except Esther, together with apocrypha like the Hebrew text of the Book of Sirach, previously known only in translations, and various writings of the Qumran community, including a scroll over 3m/10ft long which contains the whole book of Isaiah in 54 columns and a 2m/6.5ft long scroll with the "manual of discipline" of the Essenes of Qumran. There are also various private documents in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and, more rarely, Nabataean and Latin, and letters, including some from Bar Kochba, found in the wadis to the south of Qumran.Not all the scrolls found between 1947 and 1956 have yet been deciphered and published. The more poorly preserved scrolls, which have disintegrated into hundreds of fragments, present particular problems for the team of twenty scholars at present working on the project. It is likely to take until the year 2000 to deal with this mass of material. So far as it has gone the decipherment of the texts on the scrolls, which Albright already reckoned in 1948 to be "the greatest find of manuscripts in modern times", has made important contributions to knowledge in three respects. Comparison of the texts with later manuscripts of the Bible has shown the extraordinary reliability of the transmission of the Biblical text over the centuries; our knowledge of the Essene sect, previously known only from references by Jewish and Roman writers like Philo, Flavius Josephus and Pliny, has been widened and deepened; and it has been shown that Qumran was the center of the Essene community.HistoryThe Essenes were the third of the main Jewish religious parties, after the Sadducees and Pharisees. The sect came into being about 150 B.C. in the course of conflicts in Jerusalem over the Temple and the service of the Temple. The Essenes were against the union in one person of both royal and priestly power, against the rigid and superficial Temple rites and against Hellenistic influence. They saw the religious community in Jerusalem as having fallen away from the faith and regarded themselves as the true people of Israel. The 4,000 members of the sect scattered throughout the country established their center at Qumran, where there was a community of some 200 Essenes.The settlement at Qumran was established soon after 150 B.C. over the remains of an earlier settlement of the ninth-sixth centuries B.C. It was destroyed in an earthquake in 31 B.C., rebuilt and then finally destroyed by Roman forces in A.D. 68 during the Jewish War. Before the destruction of their settlement the Essenes managed to hide their library, archives and other treasures in the neighboring caves, where they survived the centuries. During the Bar Kochba rising of 132-135 Qumran was again briefly occupied.During the 200 years of existence of their community the Essenes lived a strictly regulated communal life. Those who were admitted to the community by baptism after a novitiate of several years gave all their possessions to the community. After ritual purification the members ate their meals in common, with ceremonial breaking of bread. They devoted themselves to the study of the Bible and praised God with hymns of thanksgiving. They tilled the land at nearby En Gedi. Their objectives were extreme abstinence, piety and above all purity (white clothing, diet, baths). In Christoph Burchard's view the Essenes were neither an order nor a sect but "a strictly Jewish religious movement directed towards the attainment of sanctity, adhering strictly to the Torah, with a radical eschatology". The community was headed by the "Teacher of Righteousness", a priest descended from Zadok. The determinant elements in the theology of Qumran were the expectation of the coming of the Messiah and the dualist doctrine (set out in a scroll almost 3m/10ft long) of the conflict in the last days between the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness. It appears probable that John the Baptist belonged to the Essene community, at least for a time, and that the doctrines of Qumran had some impact on the New Testament and on the Jewish Karaite sect.
The monastery-like settlement of the Essenes was originally surrounded by a high wall. No living or sleeping accommodation was found within the complex (the Essenes presumably slept in the neighboring caves), so there is some doubt whether it can in fact be regarded as akin to a monastery.Near the entrance are the remains of a tower. Beyond this, to the left, is a courtyard, on one side of which (by the tower) is a kitchen and on the other the main building, which is 37.5m/123ft square. Along its south side is the refectory and assembly hall, 24m/79ft long by 4.5m/15ft wide. On the upper floor was a scriptorium. In an adjoining room were found 1,700 pottery vessels and a jar with a lid like those in which the manuscripts were stored in the caves. The potters' workshop can be seen to the east of the main building, together with two cisterns damaged in the earthquake of 31 B.C. On the west side of the site are the remains of an aqueduct which fed the pools for ritual ablutions, as well as a cistern from the earlier Israelite period, a store-room, kilns and ovens.
From the open space beyond the remains of the buildings of the monastery at Qumran there is a striking view over a deep gorge to the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. The caves themselves are accessible only to rock- climbers.