How to Read the Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls world is a fascinating one but it may be confusing to some. These tools are geared to aid the beginner in the study of the scrolls.
Every scroll and fragment of a scroll has an ID number. This number includes all the basic information about the scrolls. All ID numbers begin with the location in which the text was found. In most cases this is a cave number plus the letter Q, indicating one of the eleven caves of Qumran. Scrolls from other Judean Desert sites, such as Masada or Wadi Murabba‛at have their own identifying abbreviations (see below).
After the location symbol is the number of the scroll. Every text was given an individual number. These numbers represent the order in which the fragments were identified. Often, connected fragments were found together and thus numbered together, but this is not always the case.
In addition to a numerical ID, every scroll and fragment has a name. e.g., 1Q27Mysteries. The name relates to the content of the scroll. In many cases the original name was based on preliminary research, and thus may be misleading, but for the purposes of consistency the older names are usually retained.
Sometimes more than one copy of a text may have been found. In this case the texts will receive a superscript letter to distinguish it from other copies. Thus, 4Q268 is also named 4QDamascus Documentc (or 4QDc). This indicates that this text was the two hundred and sixty-eighth manuscript from Cave 4 to be catalogued, and that it was the third copy of the Damascus Document to be found in that cave. 4QSama is the first copy of the biblical Samuel scroll from Qumran Cave 4.
The scrolls were written in columns, on rolls made of animal skins. The location of a passage within a given scroll is designated by its column number and line number. Thus:
The first seven scrolls found in Cave 1, along with the copy of the Damascus Document found in the Cairo Genizah, are usually referred to by name, not number:
Hev Nahal Hever