On March 20, 1952, Henri de Contenson, a young French scholar, mounted an expedition to scout desert terraces and cliffs in the Judean desert. They were looking for Dead Sea Scrolls. They were racing against the illicit Bedouin excavations by basically using their own team of hired Bedouin. The expedition was sponsored by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities who controlled the region at that time. The team came across a large natural cave. The cave’s entrance was narrow and rock-covered, barely perceptible to the scanning eye. For eleven days, they carefully cleared a mountain of debris. The cave contained forty scroll jars, shattered from the crushing weight of a ceiling that had collapsed in antiquity. All that was left from the once robust library were five intact jars housing disintegrated scrolls.
On the last day of the excavation, the team noticed that a large limestone rock was hiding what appeared to be a lesser side cave. Like a false wall for a castle’s secret chamber, the rock camouflaged the nook and barred it from intruders. Curious, workers carefully chipped through the chalky barricade. Resting alone on a low shelf were two stacked copper rolls. The scroll’s strategic position allowed it to narrowly escape the collapsed ceiling. Nature had created the perfect hiding place for the most intriguing manuscript in the Dead Sea Scroll collection: The Copper Scroll.