Written sources like papyri, parchments, scrolls or books are fascinating and rare finds. In particular for a metal searcher. In all known cases they have been found by coincidence or in a search triggered by a chance find. The few finds were so important that this little chapter is added.
Finds of old testament writings are linked with a single place name – Qumran in modern Israel at the west bank of the Dead Sea.
In the late 1940s the first scrolls were found in a cave near Qumran. A chance find of a shepherd. In the following years a fierce competition between archaeologists and Bedouins began. The Bedouins won . Hundreds of caves were searched.
In theory, private excavations and antiquities trading was illegal. In practice, it was hardly possible to enforce this law. In the end, the archaeologists bought many scrolls and scroll fragments from the Bedouins. This shows how effective private searchers can be.
The Bedouins had certainly a lot of patience but I doubt they did have a metal detector. I am sure the caves of Israel will yield more finds.
The Qumran scrolls prove how accurate religious texts were copied. Some Old Testament texts found there were some 1000 years older than the oldest version known so far. Still, the texts were almost identical. This is the main importance of the Qumran finds to the public. Apart from this, studying the content in only interesting for scholars.
Many scrolls were ripped apart. Thousands of fragments needed to be set together. As the scientific work with these fragments was a) prestigious and b) terribly boring it took 4 decades before all scrolls were published. Some hype authors used this to claim that the scrolls contained secrets the Vatican wished to keep secret. Some even claimed the scrolls were some secret reports on Jesus. Both claims are highly inaccurate. Today everybody can read translations of the scrolls – and Jesus was not mentioned a single time. These texts belong to the Old Testament, not the New Testament.
I am sure there is more to be found in the countless caves of the Judaic desert. Granted, for a metal seeker the main objective are not scrolls but metallic objects. Hundreds of caves have been searched by Bedouins since 1947. But they usually searched without metal detector. In terms of metal finds the prospects are still good.
(C) 2006-2011 Thorsten Straub, www.biblical-finds.com