Juma was beginning to get nervous. Some of his goats were climbing too high up the cliffs. He decided to climb the face of the cliff himself to bring them back. Little did Juma realize as he began his climb on that January day in 1947 that those straying goats would eventually involve him in what William Foxwell Albright would call “the greatest archaeological discovery in the twentieth century.” Such thoughts were far from his mind when he saw two small openings to one of the thousands of caves that dot those barren cliffs that overlook the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. He threw a rock into one of the openings. The unexpected cracking sound surprised him—what else could be in those remote caves but treasure? He called to his cousins, Khalil and Muhammad, who climbed up and heard the exciting tale. But it was getting late, and the goats had to be gathered. Tomorrow they would return—perhaps their days of following the goats would come to an end once the treasure was uncovered!
The youngest of the three, Muhammad, rose the next day before his two “fellow treasure-seekers” and made his way to the cave. The cave floor was covered with debris, including broken pottery. Along the wall stood a number of narrow jars, some with their bowl-shaped covers still in place. Frantically Muhammad began to explore the inside of each jar, but no treasure of gold was to be found…only a few bundles wrapped in cloth and greenish with age. Returning to his cousin, he related the sad news—no treasure. No treasure indeed! The scrolls those Bedouin boys removed from that dark cave that day and in the days following would come to be recognized as the greatest manuscript treasure ever found—the first seven manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls! read more