Hershel Shanks

Qumran Cave 4, just a few hundred feet from the settlement, contained fragments of more than 500 manuscripts when the Bedouin discovered it in 1952. They removed 80 percent of the contents before archaeologists discovered them digging there. The Bedouin later sold fragments to the archaeologists by the shoebox-ful. Perhaps originally stored on shelves supported by posts cut into the walls of the cave, the scrolls were found worm-eaten and damaged by centuries of the combination of heat and of bat droppings. The fragments recovered from Cave 4 are still being pieced together. Their connection with the settlement at Qumran remains a matter of debate: Were they stored in the caves by the inhabitants of the settlement, or were they brought from elsewhere and secreted in the caves for protection?