Qumran is a site on the
northwest side of the
The site of Qumran is itself
elevated just before the coastal plain of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea
below, as you can see in the picture of the
The following picture of
Cave 4 is taken from the same level (although walking about 100 yards south) in
the other direction, to the west. So you
can see that there is a ravine of sorts between the site of
Here are a couple views of the site. First from the south:
Then from the tower looking southeast:
The room somewhat dubiously
called the “scriptorium” is right below, just south of the tower, from which
the following two photos were taken. I
say dubiously because the very concept of a scriptorium is medieval and runs
the risk of importing anachronistic, extraneous meaning into the site. For the same reason I would strongly resist
calling those at
I think we should resist the idea that all this community did was produce documents. While an ink receptacle was found in the so called scriptorium, this fact does not make it a place solely used for copying things. There are too many different handwritings among the scrolls to think that this community produced all of the scrolls here. Rather, the scrolls are probably the library of the group and many of the documents were brought from elsewhere.
Although there are dissenting voices, the prevailing hypothesis remains that this was a group of Essenes. The majority currently favor the idea that it was a sectarian group of Essenes (the Groningen Hypothesis). We know from Josephus that some Essenes married while others did not. Female and children bones were discovered in the cemetery, but it is difficult to know what relation they bear to the site. What I mean is, the documents discovered in the caves would push us toward seeing the group as a celibate Essene group. If so, it is questionable whether women were even allowed within the confines of the site.
Yet they also adopted children, Josephus tells us. Did the mothers of these adopted children live outside the community? Were these the wives and families of men who had joined the community? The proximity of the caves to the site lead me to reject the hypothesis that the scrolls were only coincidentally found near the site and that the two have no relation to each other.
Others would suggest that
Here is the so called scriptorium. It may have been two story originally:
Here is the “refractory,” whose name suggests the place where they ate:
The place also had an aqueduct for water:
It had cisterns for water:
It had kilns for firing pottery, such as the jars in which the scrolls were found:
Entering into the community required not only initial baptism in a miqveh or baptismal pool, but no doubt also repeated baptisms to stay clean. Purity was a major concern of the community. They rejected the current temple administration as unclean and inappropriate, so they attempted to live at temple purity standards. They thus earn the title of the most conservative and strict sect among the Jews.
One apparently walked down one side of the miqveh unclean and came out clean:
The graves at
We can tell that an earthquake destroyed the site at one point from the condition of one of the miqvaot (the plural of miqveh):
Ultimately, the site was
destroyed by the Romans. Some copies of Essene documents at
Kenneth Schenck, June 2005