The most well-known texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient religious writings found in eleven caves near the site of Qumran. Discoveries from additional sites yielded mostly documents and letters, especially papyri that had been hidden in caves by refugees from wars. While some of these writings survived as nearly intact scrolls, most of the archive consists of thousands of parchment and papyrus fragments. 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.
At the visitor center, designed like Qumran’s ancient buildings, an exciting film links the fabulous landscape with the story of its people, recalling that John the Baptist may have lived here. A dramatic view of the cave in which most of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found tops off the experience, and whets your appetite to view the scrolls themselves at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.