Dead Sea Scrolls Complete After 54 Years

Half a century after the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls was found in desert caves, archeologists are celebrating the near completion of the publication of the ancient texts.

"It's a very happy moment that we can say today that all this is completed," said Emmanuel Tov, the project's editor in chief. "After 54 years of excitement, expectation, tribulation, much criticism and a little praise, with the help of much inspiration and even more perspiration, the publication has been finalized."

The scrolls, which date from 250 B.C. to A.D. 70, were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves overlooking the western shores of the Dead Sea. For decades, access to the complete scrolls was tightly guarded by a small group of international scholars. After the release of bootlegged copies of some of the texts and an archive of scroll photographs, a new group of nearly 100 scholars took charge of the scrolls in 1991.

The 900 scrolls and commentaries in 37 volumes were primarily written in Hebrew and Aramaic on more than 15,000 leather and papyrus documents. They were found near the ruins of the ancient settlement of Hirbet Qumran, nine miles south of Jericho in the West Bank.