QumranQumran, the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, is situated below the cliffs of the Judean wilderness on a dry plateau.
Above photo: The Dead Sea is 1,400' below sea level.
Photo: The Qumran mountains is where 11 caves were found. The Hellenistic period settlement was constructed during the Hellenistic period (134-104 BCR) and was occupied most of the time until it was destroyed by the Romans around 68 CE.
We were very fortunate to have Dr. Andrew Skinner lead our group. He was one of four scholars who spent 5 years translating the scrolls. He told us that 35 very thick volumes were written about these translations while working on this project. Note: Display of clay pots in above photo like those found originally in the caves.
The group started at a center where we saw a film and were shown copies of pottery artifacts found in the caves. In 1947, a Bedouin discovered a cave containing jars with ancient manuscripts. He sold some of the scroll fragments to an antiquities dealer, who then resold them to scholars.
Located about one mile from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, it once had a Jewish population as far back as the 8th century. The scrolls are significant to Middle-Eastern history.
Archaeologists and Bedouin later discovered numerous caves containing scroll fragments in the desert cliffs and in the terrace below. The principal excavations at Qumran were conducted by Roland de Vaux in the 1950's though several later campaigns at the site have been carried out. Information gleaned from the scrolls of the archaeological digs discovered several Jewish ritual baths. It was concluded that Qumran was established by a sectarian group of Jewish men (the Essenes) seeking isolation in the desert and practiced monasticism. They dressed only in white and lived a very isolated life.
It has been estimated that about 200 monks lived there who called themselves "sons of light" as they awaited the Messiah and prepared to defeat the "sons of darkness." They were consumed with ritual purity and in so doing, they took part in purification rituals twice each day which included immersions in mikvaot, by participating in communal meals and by copying sacred writings in a scriptorium (room for writing).
Photo: Cave where first scrolls were found. In the early 60's in Idaho, I vividly recall my own father's interest in the Dead Sea scrolls. He attended some lectures given by Ariel Crowley and taped his lectures. One day it will be interesting to listen to them as I now have a much better understanding of Qumran. Ariel had published several articles, "The Anthon Transcript," which was about the study of ancient Egyptian writings and gave some lectures on the scrolls that were found.
Photo: Purification sign.
Photo: Reconstructed model of ritual bath. Notice the ridge that separates the steps so that those who step down who are not cleansed are separated from those coming out of the font. They purified in fresh water and believed they were living in an open air temple and their bodies were temples themselves so the ritual coventry was required. The Qumran community hid their manuscripts in the surrounding caves which they sealed up before the Romans destroyed Qumran about Ad 68.
Photo: Cave opening.
The scrolls contain copies of most books of the Hebrew Bible plus additional writings unique to the Qumran community. A room was designated for the purpose of writing of the scrolls.
Photo: Room specifically for the scribes.
Photo: The scrolls were written on papyrus. The Dead Sea Scrolls provided two important insights: 1) Old Testament manuscripts more than 1,000 years OLDER than the previously oldest copies and 2) information about the beliefs and practices of other Jews who were contemporary with John the Baptist and Jesus. The first 5 scrolls contain the Tora. Scroll 6 contains the Covenants of Jacob and the 6th book of the Tora.
Photo: Close up of scrolls. Our group proceeded out of the visitor's center to the archaeologist site where the community of monks ate in a refectory (big room), made pottery, inscribed history on scrolls, took rituals baths but LIVED in the caves.
Communal house where monks lived.
Photo: Cleansed in the Holy Spirit.
Photo: All of the purification fonts had 7 steps.
Photo: Steps leading to purification font.
Photo: This is an aquaduct which leads to a cistern where water was collected.
Photo: The walls of the cisterns were covered in heavy plaster.
Photo: It was a perfect day . . . not too hot and not too cool.
Photo: Crack shows from earthquake.
Photo: Notice the ridge which divides the steps of the cleansed from the uncleansed.
Photo: Looking down from this site.
Photo: Many caves were found by archaeologists with many more scrolls.
Photo: Refectory (place they ate together).
Photo: Pottery kiln.
Photo: When we were in Jerusalem in 1971 and visited this site, we don't remember seeing any of these digs. I can just imagine the excitement when archaeologists began digging and found this site.
Photo: "I'm loving every minute of every day!"
Photo: Many coins were found in this dig.
Photo: Another great day in Israel!