The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 981 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank. They were found inside caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name. Nine of the scrolls were rediscovered at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in 2014, after they had been stored unopened for six decades following their excavation in 1952. The texts are of great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the earliest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible canon, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism.
The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some written on papyrus and bronze. The manuscripts have been dated to various ranges between 408 BCE and 318 CE. Bronze coins found on the site form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus (135–104 BCE) and continuing until the First Jewish-Roman War (66–73 CE).
The scrolls have traditionally been identified with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, although some recent interpretations have challenged this association and argue that the scrolls were penned by priests in Jerusalem, Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups.
Due to the poor condition of some of the Scrolls, not all of them have been identified. Those that have been identified can be divided into three general groups: (1) some 40% of them are copies of texts from the Hebrew Bible, (2) approximately another 30% of them are texts from the Second Temple Period and which ultimately were not canonized in the Hebrew Bible, like the Book of Enoch, Jubilees, the Book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Sirach, Psalms 152–155, etc., and (3) the remaining roughly 30% of them are sectarian manuscripts of previously unknown documents that shed light on the rules and beliefs of a particular group or groups within greater Judaism, like the Community Rule, the War Scroll, the Pesher on Habakkuk and The Rule of the Blessing.