Research has dated it palaeographically to the 1st or 2nd century CE, and using the C14 method to sometime between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE.
Archaeologists have long associated the scrolls with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, although some recent interpretations have challenged this connection and argue that priests in Jerusalem, or Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups wrote the scrolls.
The texts have great historical, religious, and linguistic significance because they include the second-oldest 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.
(See Ownership.) In 1947 the original seven scrolls caught the attention of Dr. Trever, of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), who compared the script in the scrolls to that of The Nash Papyrus, the oldest biblical manuscript then known, and found similarities between them.In March the 1948 Arab–Israeli War prompted the move of some of the scrolls to Beirut, Lebanon, for safekeeping.However, a small number of well-preserved, almost intact manuscripts have survived – fewer than a dozen among those from the Qumran Caves.Bronze coins found at the same sites form a series beginning with John Hyrcanus (in office 135–104 BCE) and continuing until the period of the First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE), supporting the radiocarbon and paleographic dating of the scrolls.In early 1948, the government of Jordan gave permission to the Arab Legion to search the area where the original Qumran cave was thought to be.
Consequently, Cave 1 was rediscovered on 28 January 1949, by Belgian United Nations observer Captain Phillipe Lippens and Arab Legion Captain Akkash el-Zebn.
Undaunted, the Bedouin went to a nearby market, where a Syrian Christian offered to buy them.
A sheikh joined their conversation and suggested they take the scrolls to Khalil Eskander Shahin, "Kando", a cobbler and part-time antiques dealer.
Many thousands of written fragments have been discovered in the Dead Sea area.
They represent the remnants of larger manuscripts damaged by natural causes or through human interference, with the vast majority only holding small scraps of text.
The shepherds discovered seven scrolls (See Scrolls and fragments) housed in jars in a cave near what is now known as the Qumran site. Trever reconstructed the story of the scrolls from several interviews with the Bedouin.