Qumran is an archaeological site in the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

. It is located on a dry plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

 about a mile inland from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea
Dead Sea
The Dead Sea , also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface. The Dead Sea is deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world...

, near the Israeli settlement
Israeli settlement
An Israeli settlement is a Jewish civilian community built on land that was captured by Israel from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War and is considered occupied territory by the international community. Such settlements currently exist in the West Bank...

 and kibbutz
A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Today, farming has been partly supplanted by other economic branches, including industrial plants and high-tech enterprises. Kibbutzim began as utopian communities, a combination of socialism and Zionism...

 of Kalia. The Hellenistic period
Hellenistic civilization
Hellenistic civilization represents the zenith of Greek influence in the ancient world from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE...

 settlement was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus
John Hyrcanus
John Hyrcanus was a Hasmonean leader of the 2nd century BC.-Name:...

, 134-104 BCE or somewhat later, and was occupied most of the time until it was destroyed by the Romans in 68 CE or shortly after. It is best known as the settlement nearest to the caves
Qumran Caves
The Qumran Caves are a series of caves, some natural, some artificial, to be found around the archaeological site of Qumran. It is in a number of these caves that the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found...

 in which the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 were hidden, caves in the sheer desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 cliffs and beneath, in the marl terrace.


Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

 in 1947-1956, extensive excavations have taken place in Qumran. Nearly 900 scroll
A scroll is a roll of parchment, papyrus, or paper, which has been drawn or written upon.Scroll may also refer to:*Scroll , the decoratively curved end of the pegbox of string instruments such as violins...

s were discovered. Most were written on parchment
Parchment is a thin material made from calfskin, sheepskin or goatskin, often split. Its most common use was as a material for writing on, for documents, notes, or the pages of a book, codex or manuscript. It is distinct from leather in that parchment is limed but not tanned; therefore, it is very...

 and some on papyrus. Cisterns, Jewish ritual baths, and cemeteries
A cemetery is a place in which dead bodies and cremated remains are buried. The term "cemetery" implies that the land is specifically designated as a burying ground. Cemeteries in the Western world are where the final ceremonies of death are observed...

 have been found, along with a dining or assembly room and debris from an upper story alleged by some to have been a scriptorium
Scriptorium, literally "a place for writing", is commonly used to refer to a room in medieval European monasteries devoted to the copying of manuscripts by monastic scribes...

 as well as pottery kilns and a tower.

Many scholars believe the location to have been home to a Jewish sect
A sect is a group with distinctive religious, political or philosophical beliefs. Although in past it was mostly used to refer to religious groups, it has since expanded and in modern culture can refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and...

, the Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

 being the preferred choice; others have proposed non-sectarian interpretations, some of these starting with the notion that it was a Hasmonean fort which was later transformed into a villa
A villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity,...

 for a wealthy family or a production center, perhaps a pottery factory or similar.

A large cemetery was discovered to the east of the site. While most of the graves contain the remains of males, some females were also discovered, though some burials may be from medieval times. Only a small portion of the graves were excavated, as excavating cemeteries is forbidden under Jewish law. Over a thousand bodies are buried at Qumran cemetery. One theory is that bodies were those of generations of sectarians, while another is that they were brought to Qumran because burial was easier there than in rockier surrounding areas.

The scrolls were found in a series of eleven caves around the settlement, some accessible only through the settlement. Some scholars have claimed that the caves were the permanent libraries
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

 of the sect, due to the presence of the remains of a shelving system. Other scholars believe that some caves also served as domestic shelters for those living in the area. Many of the texts found in the caves appear to represent widely accepted Jewish beliefs and practices, while other texts appear to speak of divergent, unique, or minority interpretations and practices. Some scholars believe that some of these texts describe the beliefs of the inhabitants of Qumran, which, may have been the Essenes, or the asylum for supporters of the traditional priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

ly family of the Zadokite
The Sadducees were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Ancient Israel during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BC through the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society...

s against the Hasmonean
The Hasmonean dynasty , was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea...

 priest/kings. A literary epistle published in the 1990s expresses reasons for creating a community, some of which resemble Sadducean arguments in the Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

. Most of the scrolls seem to have been hidden in the caves during the turmoil of the First Jewish Revolt, though some of them may have been deposited earlier.

Early site analysis

The site of Khirbet Qumran had been known to European explorers since the 19th century. The initial attention of the early explorers was focused on the cemetery, beginning with de Saulcy in 1851. In fact, the first excavations at Qumran (prior to the development of modern methodology) were of burials in the cemetery, conducted by Henry Poole in 1855 followed by Charles Clermont-Ganneau
Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau
Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau was a noted French Orientalist and archaeologist.-Biography:Clermont-Ganneau was born in Paris, son of a sculptor of some repute...

 in 1873.

Albert Isaacs, British counsel James Finn, and photographer James Graham visited Qumran in December 1856. Isaacs stated regarding Qumran's tower, "It can hardly be doubted that this formed a tower or stronghold of some kind. The situation is commanding, and well adapted for defensive operations." Finn later suggested Qumran was "some ancient fort with a cistern."

The British scholar Ernest William Gurney Masterman visited Qumran on several occasions between 1900 and 1901. After observing the positioning of Qumran atop a plateau overlooking the ‘Ein Feshkha Springs, he concluded the ruins "may have very well been once a small fortress." Masterman also questioned why a small fort would require a graveyard of over one thousand tombs.

Gustaf Dalman visited Qumran in 1914, and explicitly identified Qumran as a burg, or fort. Archaeologist Michael Avi-Yonah agreed with Dalman’s identification of Qumran as a fort and published a map that identified the remains at Qumran as part of a string of fortresses along the southeastern Judean border.

Major excavations

Full-scale work at the site began after Roland de Vaux
Roland de Vaux
Father Roland Guérin de Vaux OP was a French Dominican priest who led the Catholic team that initially worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was the director of the Ecole Biblique, a French Catholic Theological School in East Jerusalem, and he was charged with overseeing research on the scrolls...

 and G. Lankester Harding in 1949 excavated what became known as Cave 1, the first scroll-bearing cave. A cursory surface survey that year produced nothing of interest, but continued interest in the scrolls led to a more substantial analysis of the ruins at Qumran in 1951, an analysis which yielded traces of pottery closely related to that found in Cave 1. This discovery led to intensive excavations at the site over a period of six seasons under the direction of de Vaux.
The Iron Age remains at the site, which were modest but included a lmlk-seal, led de Vaux to identify Qumran as the City of Salt
City of Salt
City of Salt is a town referred to in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. According to Josh 15:62 the town was located in the wilderness of Judah, otherwise known as the Judean Desert, and is identified by some scholars with the archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran.-Ancient Name:The toponym is...

 listed in Josh 15:62. The site, however, may be identified with Secacah
Secacah is a town mentioned in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as well as in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The town was located in the wilderness of Judah, otherwise known as the Judean Desert, and is identified by some scholars with the archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran.-Ancient name:The toponym...

, which is referenced in the same area as the City of Salt in Josh 15:61. Secacah is mentioned in the Copper Scroll
Copper Scroll
The Copper Scroll is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Cave 3 near Khirbet Qumran, but differs significantly from the others. Whereas the other scrolls are written on parchment or papyrus, this scroll is written on metal: copper mixed with about 1 percent tin...

, and the water works of Secacah that are described in this source are consistent with those of Qumran. Following the Iron Age, the excavations revealed that Qumran was principally in use from the Hasmonean times until some time after the destruction of the temple by Titus. De Vaux divided this use into three periods: Period I, the Hasmonean era, which he further divided in two, Period Ia, the time of John Hyrcanus, and Period Ib, the latter Hasmoneans, ending with an earthquake and fire in 31BCE (this was followed by a hiatus in de Vaux's interpretation of the site); Period II, the Herodian era, starting in 4BCE on up to the destruction of the site apparently at the hands of the Romans during the Jewish War; and Period III, a reoccupation in the ruins. De Vaux's periodization has been challenged by both Jodi Magness and Yizhar Hirschfeld.

The site that de Vaux uncovered divides into two main sections: a main building, a squarish structure of two stories featuring a central courtyard and a defensive tower on its north-western corner; and a secondary building to the west. The excavation revealed a complex water system which supplied water to several stepped cisterns, some quite large, located in various parts of the site. Two of these cisterns were placed within the walls of the main building.

Both the buildings and the water system evince signs of consistent evolution throughout the life of the settlement with frequent additions, extensions and improvements. The water channel was raised in order to carry water to newer cisterns further away and a dam was placed in the upper section of Wadi Qumran to secure more water, which was brought to the site by an aqueduct. Rooms were added, floors were raised, pottery ovens relocated and locations were repurposed.

De Vaux found three inkwells at Qumran (Loci 30 (2) and 31) and over the following years more inkwells have come to light with a Qumran origin. Jan Gunneweg identified a fourth (locus 129). S. Steckoll found a fifth (reportedly near the scriptorium). Magen and Peleg found a sixth inkwell . Without counting the Ein Feshkha
Ein Feshkha
Ein Feshkha is a nature reserve and archaeological site on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about three kilometers south of Qumran in the nation of Israel. It is named for a spring of brackish water in the area...

 inkwell or others with debated provenance, that is more inkwells than found at any other Second Temple Period site, a significant indication of writing there.

De Vaux's interpretations

De Vaux interpreted his findings at Qumran based (at least in part) upon the information contained within the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts from the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found between 1947 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name...

, which continued to be discovered in the nearby caves throughout his excavations. De Vaux concluded that the remains at Qumran were left by a sectarian religious community. Using his excavations as well as textual sources, including the Dead Sea Scrolls and the historical accounts recorded by Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, Philo
Philo , known also as Philo of Alexandria , Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, "Philon", and Philo the Jew, was a Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher born in Alexandria....

, and Flavius Josephus. De Vaux's conclusion was that the inhabitants of the site were a sect of highly ritualistic Jews called the Essenes
The Essenes were a Jewish sect that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE which some scholars claim seceded from the Zadokite priests...

, a conclusion that has come to be known as the "Qumran-Essene Hypothesis." This hypothesis suggests that the original residents of the settlement were the Essenes, and that they established the site in the desert for religious purposes.

He interpreted the room above locus 30 as a "scriptorium" because he discovered inkwells there. A plastered bench was also discovered in the remains of an upper story. De Vaux concluded that this was the area in which the Essenes could have written some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. De Vaux also interpreted locus 77 as a "refectory", or a community dining hall, based on the discovery of numerous sets of bowls in the nearby "pantry" of locus 89. Additionally, de Vaux interpreted many of the numerous stepped cisterns as "miqva’ot", or Jewish ritual baths, due to their similarity to several stepped and partitioned ritual baths near the Jerusalem Temple Mount
Temple Mount
The Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as , and in Arabic as the Haram Ash-Sharif , is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It has been used as a religious site for thousands of years...


Regarding the scrolls De Vaux cautiously stated that "manuscripts were copied in the scriptorium of Qumran... We may also suppose... that certain works were composed at Khirbet Qumran. But beyond this we cannot go." He believed that the Essenes later hid the scrolls in the nearby caves when they felt their safety was in danger.

Further excavations and surveys

Although de Vaux's excavations of Qumran were quite exhaustive, and thereby the most important source of information on the settlement, there have been several excavations since de Vaux finished his work. As de Vaux left little of the settlement unexcavated, later diggers were sometimes reduced to digging in the less-important dump areas. During the 1960s, according to Catherine Murphy, there were some unpublished excavations at Qumran by John Allegro and by Solomon Steckoll
Solomon H. Steckoll
Solomon H. Steckoll was a journalist with an interest in ancient Jewish matters. He carried out excavations in the Qumran cemetery and later wrote books about the Jerusalem temple and the gates of Jerusalem....

. Steckoll also carried out work in the cemetery, excavating twelve tombs. In 1967 restoration work was performed at Qumran by R.W. Dajjani of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.

In 1984 and 1985 Joseph Patrich and Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin on 21 March 1917, died 28 June 1984) was an Israeli archeologist, politician, and the second Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.-Early life and military career:...

 carried out a systematic survey of the caves and pathways around Qumran. Between 1985-1991 Patrich excavated five caves, including Caves 3Q and 11Q. One of Patrich's conclusions was that the caves "did not serve as habitations for the members of the Dead Sea Sect, but rather as stores and hiding places".

From mid-November 1993 to January 1994 the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out works in the Qumran compound and nearby installations as part of "Operation Scroll" under the direction of Amir Drori
Amir Drori
Amir Drori was an Israeli general, founder and the first director general of the Israel Antiquities Authority.-Military career:Amir Drori was born in Tel Aviv in 1937 and graduated from the IDF's Junior Command Preparatory School in Haifa. He was drafted into the Israel Defence Forces in 1955,...

 and Yitzhak Magen. In the winter of 1995-1996 and later seasons Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel carried out further excavations in the caves north of Qumran; they also dug in the cemetery and in marl terrace caves. In 1996 James Strange and others dug at Qumran using remote sensing equipment. From 1996 to 1999 and later Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg carried out excavations at Qumran under the auspices of the National Parks Authority. Randall Price and Oren Gutfield dug on the Qumran plateau, seasons in 2002, 2004 and 2005 (and plan a 2010 season).

Recent archaeological analysis

Most of the small finds from the de Vaux excavations were taken back to Jerusalem to be used in later excavation reports for Qumran, but the death of Roland de Vaux brought a halt to the reports and the small finds were left to gather dust on shelves in museum backrooms. In the late 1980s archaeologist Robert Donceel, while working on the de Vaux materials in a new effort towards publishing excavation reports, found artifacts which he considered did not fit the religious settlement model, including "sophisticated glass and stoneware". In 1992 Pauline Donceel-Voute put forward the Roman villa model in an attempt to explain these artifacts. A recent final publication of the French excavations by Jean-Baptist Humbert outlining evidence of a decorated frieze, opus sectile
Opus sectile
Opus sectile refers to an art technique popularized in the ancient and medieval Roman world where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern. Common materials were marble, mother of pearl, and glass. The materials were cut in thin pieces, polished, then trimmed...

, fine columns etc., indicates a phase of a wealthier occupation, "une grande maison", at Qumran.


The range of pottery, glass and high quantity of coins found at Qumran do not sit well in the context of a sectarian settlement according to the Donceels These materials point to trade connections in the area, and provide evidence that Qumran may not have been in a vacuum in the Graeco-Roman period. Rachel Bar-Nathan has argued from similarities between pottery finds at Qumran and at the Hasmonean and Herodian palaces of Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

 that Qumran should be seen as part of the Jordan valley context rather than as an isolated site. While the cylindrical "scroll jars" from Qumran were once thought to be unique, she cites a proposed similar find at Jericho, shows a related form existed at Masada
Masada is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel, on top of an isolated rock plateau, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE...

, and reports that such jars have been found at Qalandiya. Bar-Nathan states from the Jericho palace data that "it is possible to trace the typological development of this group of jars", i.e. the cylindrical jars. Jodi Magness, citing Bar-Nathan's M.A. thesis on the Jericho pottery data, refers to cylindrical jars at Jericho, saying "[a]t Jericho, most of these jars .. come from an industrial area dating to the time of Herod". Jan Gunneweg observed that the supposed single partial parallel a Jericho "a partly preserved rim and neck with a vertical loop handle" is in fact not a "scroll" jar. Another one was reported found in Jordan in a later burial near Abila but no photos or drawings were unpublished and the jar has not been relocated, showing de Vaux sought parallels. Taking into account subtypes of pottery, true cylindrical "scroll" jars are not common outside Qumran. They are, however, clearly not unique to Qumran. Bar-Nathan noted the jar's "rarity in the Second Temple period." Of some of the proposed parallel Masada jars, Bar-Nathan wrote "It seems that this group of storage jars was brought (or pillaged?) from the area of Qumran and probably also from the Plain of Jericho."


The several large stepped cisterns which are a feature of Qumran have been viewed as ritual baths by many scholars. This accords with the religious settlement model. There are difficulties in understanding all these cisterns as baths, however. Qumran's water arrived perhaps twice a year from run off of water brought down by rain. Water was one of Qumran's most valued commodities and water management is an integral part of the site, as seen with the numerous cisterns and channels. If the large cisterns were ritual baths the water would sit getting dirtier through ritual bathing throughout the year and was extremely infrequently replenished by the run off. The current state of analysis of the cisterns is still unresolved, but Katharina Galor
Katharina Galor
Katharina Galor is a German-born Israeli archaeologist specializing in ancient Israel-Palestine and Syria, mainly focusing on the Roman and Byzantine periods. She currently teaches at Brown University, affiliated with the Artemis A.W. and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the...

 suggests a mixed usage of the stepped cisterns as both ritual baths and water storage. According to the Israeli archaeologists Magen and Peleg, the clay found in the cisterns was used for pottery factory facilities.

Numismatic Studies

The coins from Qumran are one of the most important groups of primary evidence from the ancient site. Much of what has been written on the chronology, the occupational periods and the history of Qumran was based on the preliminary report and lecture written by the original excavator Roland de Vaux in 1961, which was translated in 1973. A tentative list of the Qumran bronze coins along with Roland de Vaux's field diary from the excavations was published in 1994 in French, in German in 1996 and in English in 2003. The first reconstruction of the Qumran bronze coinage, including a complete coin catalogue with up-dated and cross-referenced coin identifications, was done by Kenneth Lönnqvist and Minna Lönnqvist in 2005. Also in 1955, three very important silver coin hoards were found at Qumran. The first lot of the Qumran silver coins was published by Marcia Sharabani in 1980. The last two hoards located in Amman, Jordan, were published by Kenneth Lönnqvist in 2007.

The bronze coinage

De Vaux's excavations uncovered about 1250 coins (569 silver and 681 bronze coins) altogether from Qumran, though today some Qumran coins have been lost, some lots mixed-up, and records less accurate than ideal. Firstly, there are a surprisingly high number of coins from the site. This means that the site was highly monetized in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, i.e. that the occupants of Qumran were not a community of poor and isolated people. That the flow of cash at Qumran may have been large in the 1st century CE is hardly surprising given the archaeological evidence of trade at Qumran in luxury goods such as glass, which is specifically dated to this period. The coin profile of Qumran shows that there do not appear to have been any major changes in the role of coins and money in the economic system at Qumran during any of the occupational periods from ca. 150 BCE. to 73 CE. Worth noting here is that the amount of coins found at Qumran suggests according to numismatic principles of loss and survival of ancient coins that millions of bronze coins must have circulated at Qumran. Thirdly, the bronze coins identified from Qumran, some dating to the second and third years of the Jewish War, indicate that the site was still in use in 68 CE and only destroyed after 70 CE, perhaps as late as 73 CE. The coins from Qumran of this period end with a peculiar series of bronze coins minted in 72/73 CE at Ascalon, which sent auxiliary troops to assist the Roman army in the First Jewish War (66-73 CE). In 73 CE the Romans stormed the mountain fortress of Masada, which also was located on the western bank of the Dead Sea. It is more than likely that Qumran was destroyed this same time, as the coin finds from Qumran end with the same peculiar bronze coins minted at Ascalon.

The silver coinage

The publication of the bulk of the silver coins in 2007 and the regional analysis brought about new interpretations as to the importance, chronology and significance of the coins. Firstly, the newly dated coins in the silver coin hoards give an earliest possible burial date for the coin hoards to 52/3-66 CE, based on an interpretation of a countermark. However, the archaeological and numismatic nature of the silver coin hoard burials suggests that the coin hoards may have been buried in the early 3rd century CE. The final coin belongs to Emperor Caracalla and came from the mint of Rome (206-210 CE). The new suggestion made is, that the silver coin hoards from Qumran may be connected to Roman military campaigns in the region, as these are widely attested to in the early 3rd century CE. It is also quite possible that the silver were part of Roman army payments made to troops in a local garrison. Thirdly, the technical evidence of the recording and documenting of the Qumran silver coin hoards in 2006-2007 showed that the coins came from lots, groups or batches of coins that originated in a few or one single large payment. This payment may have come from a mint, bank or an authority like the treasury of the Roman army. The new evidence refutes the possibility that the silver coins could have been collected from single individuals, for instance, as tax payments, or that Qumran could have been a regional ‘tax house’.

The new 2007 analysis of the silver coinage contradicts the findings of de Vaux, Seyrig, and Spijkerman as well as the findings of Robert Donceel. Donceel was surprised to find in the Amman museum unrecorded coins, notably denarius coins of Trajan, that he claimed were intrusive. The original Amman Museum records of the Qumran coin hoards and the museum bags where the coins where kept do not support the hypothesis that the 2nd and 3rd century Roman coins are intrusive in relation to the Tyrian silver. Furthermore,, the new countermark . that went unrecorded is apparently from 52/53 CE and the Greek letters in it do not support a date of 9/8 BCE, as the other countermarks. This means archaeologically and numismatically that at least one, but probably two minimum, of the three hoards post-date de Vaux's suggestion of a burial date after 9/8 BCE. The unusual and intensive die-linkage of the Qumran silver hoards suggest that the three hoards were buried at the same time, and this would mean at the earliest in 52/53 CE. The final proof for that a third century CE date for the three silver coin hoards from Qumran is possible beyond any reasonable doubt is shown by a highly unusual type of coin hoard found at Ain Hanaziv in the Jordan Valley in the early 1960 and reported in the Israel Numismatic Bulletin.. This coin hoard spanned hundreds of years, starting from the Seleucid era and ended with the same kind of coins from reign of Septimius Severus in 210 CE. Therefore, claiming an earlier date for the silver hoards is untenable and contradicts the first complete recording of the Qumran silver hoards made in 2007 by Lönnqvist, which includes the first photographic evidence of the coin hoards, and the regional coin evidence from other hoards. It has already been shown that de Vaux's dating system of Qumran and the silver coin hoards was based on what is generally known as a circular argument; the end of the first major settlement period was dated after the assumed date of hiding of the coin hoards, which in turn dated the coin hoards themselves.

Population at Qumran

One important issue for the understanding of the site of Qumran is a realistic calculation of its population. Using estimates based on the size of the cemetery and average lifespan de Vaux calculated that the inhabitants "would not have numbered many more than 200 members." He noted that "[t]here is a manifest disproportion between the number of tombs and the number of inhabitants for whom there was room in the buildings." This led him to speculate whether the caves were used as lodgings for his estimated 200 inhabitants. J.T. Milik
Józef Milik
Józef Tadeusz Milik was a Polish biblical scholar and a former Catholic priest. Fluent in Polish, Russian, Italian, French, German, and English plus many ancient languages Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, Old Church Slavonic, Arabic, Georgian, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian, and...

 some years earlier provided an estimate of between 150 and 200 as the average population, working on the comparison with the population of the monastery of Mar Saba, which numbered 150 monks in the 9th century and from Josephus' figure of 3,000 Essenes calculating that "at least five per cent lived the strict monastic life". E.M. Laperrousaz went as high as 1,428 inhabitants. Magen Broshi, analyzing the size of L77 (which he calls an assembly hall), estimated that about 120 to 150 people could sit there, to which he added a few dozen candidates to the population, yielding over 170 people.

From 1983 to 1987 Joseph Patrich carried out archaeological surveys around Qumran and its caves. He concluded that the caves were "stores and hiding places". He found no traces of permanent tent dwellings and that any "dwelling quarters should be sought inside the wall of Khirbet Qumran, mainly on the upper floor." Patrich estimated that the population was only 50-70 people. Magen Broshi and Hanan Eshel, revisiting the caves and the territory around Qumran in 1995-1996, later pointed out that Patrich's estimate was far too high for what Qumran could offer, reducing the number to 12-20. They turned back to caves (mainly artificial ones cut into the marl terrace most of which have not survived) and tents (pointing to pottery and nails found along one of the paths near Qumran), and staying with 150-200 inhabitants. While waiting for the publication of Broshi and Eshel's results, Patrich, anticipating them, doubted the possibility that there were once "significantly more habitable caves" cut into the marl, pointing to the lack of paths and suitable terrain. He went on to discount the significance of the nails for tent dwelling without "further substantial evidence and returned to a figure of "a few tens of residents, fifty at most". Jodi Magness accepted Broshi's estimate, adding "This number accords better than lower estimates with the presence of over 1000 dining dishes in the pantry (L86)."

Working from ratios of populations in other ancient settlements, Yizhar Hirschfeld estimated the population of Qumran thus: "If we use the lower value of fifteen people per dunam [1,000 m2], it emerges that in the Hasmonean period only about 20 people occupied the site of Qumran. Yitzhak Magen and Yuval Peleg entered the discussion commenting on how one could feed such large numbers of community members: "Were we to accept the claim that the sect lived at Qumran for about 170 years, we would expect to find hundreds of cooking and baking ovens as well as thousands of cooking pots."

The population question is a complex issue, as can be seen by the above considerations. A lot hinges on the interpretation of two locations at Qumran, those which are called the "refectory" and the "pantry". The search for extramural dwelling quarters has failed to provide substantial evidence. Discounting Laperrousaz's apparently excessively high estimate, there is a number of proposals ranging from 20 to 200 people living in and around Qumran.

Qumran-Essene hypothesis

There were few serious challenges to de Vaux's interpretation of the site of Qumran from the time it was introduced. While the archaeologist E.-M. Laperrousaz
Ernest-Marie Laperrousaz
Ernest-Marie Laperrousaz is a French historian and archaeologist. As an archaeologist he worked at Qumran and Masada. He has published numerous books including works on Qumran and the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls....

, had some quite divergent views, members of de Vaux's team followed approximately the same narrative, with minor deviations, members including J. T. Milik
Józef Milik
Józef Tadeusz Milik was a Polish biblical scholar and a former Catholic priest. Fluent in Polish, Russian, Italian, French, German, and English plus many ancient languages Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, Old Church Slavonic, Arabic, Georgian, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian, and...

, and F. M. Cross
Frank Moore Cross
Frank Moore Cross, Jr. is Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages Emeritus at Harvard University, notable for his work in the interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, his 1973 magnum opus Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, and his work in Northwest Semitic epigraphy...

. De Vaux's initial dig co-director, G. Lankester Harding
Gerald Lankester Harding
Gerald Lankester Harding was the Director of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities for twenty years. His tenure spanned the period in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and brought to public awareness...

, in 1955 wrote an article where he presented Qumran as "a building in which John the Baptist, and probably Christ, studied: Khirbet Qumran". Others outside de Vaux's team proposed other interpretations, people such as Henri del Medico, Solomon Zeitlin
Solomon Zeitlin
Solomon Zeitlin, שְׁלֹמֹה צײטלין, Шломо Цейтлин Shlomo Cejtlin was a Jewish historian...

, and G. R. Driver
Godfrey Rolles Driver
Godfrey Rolles Driver CBE, FBA was an English Orientalist noted for his studies of Semitic languages and Assyriology....

, but their analyses received little lasting attention.

In 1960 Karl Heinrich Rengstorf proposed that the Dead Sea Scrolls were not the product of the residents of Qumran, but came from the library of the Jerusalem Temple, despite their being discovered near Qumran. (Rengstorf's basic Jerusalem proposal has become increasingly more popular since the materials from de Vaux's excavations of Qumran were brought into the public arena in 1992.)

J.H. Charlesworth in 1980 proposed that Qumran was damaged in the Parthian war c. 40 BCE.

Jean-Baptiste Humbert
Jean-Baptiste Humbert
Jean-Baptiste Humbert is a French archaeologist who has excavated in Jordan, Palestine, Iran and Israel. He is of the order of the Dominicans and is currently director of le laboratoire d’archéologie de l’École Biblique in Jerusalem...

 published de Vaux's field notes. Humbert proposes a hybrid solution to the debate surrounding Qumran. Humbert accepts that the site might have been originally established as a villa rustica, but that the site was abandoned, and was reoccupied by Essenes in the late 1st century BCE. Humbert argues that the site may have also been used a place where sectarians pilgrims barred from entering Jerusalem may have celebrated the pilgrimage.

Minna Lönnqvist and Kenneth Lönnqvist brought an approach to the Qumran studies based on contextual archaeology with its spatial studies and interpretation of symbolic language of the archaeological data, positing that text scholars, who had only focused their studies on the scrolls, had removed the Dead Sea Scrolls from their archaeological context. The Lönnqvists proposed that the orientations of the settlement and the graves show that they both belonged to an intentional scheme based on adherence to a solar calendar. They argued from this that the settlement and its cemetery are connected to the Dead Sea Scrolls and associated with an Essene-type group which finds the closest parallels in the contemporary Jewish Therapeutic group known to have lived in Egypt.

Robert Cargill argues that the theory suggesting Qumran was established as a Hasmonean
The Hasmonean dynasty , was the ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE, the dynasty ruled semi-autonomously from the Seleucids in the region of Judea...

 fortress is not incompatible with the theory proposing that a group of Jewish sectarians reoccupied the site. Cargill suggests that Qumran was established as a Hasmonean fort (see below, "Qumran as fortress"), abandoned, and later reoccupied by Jewish settlers, who expanded the site in a communal, non-military fashion, and who were responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Some who challenged de Vaux's findings took issue with the practice of using the Dead Sea Scrolls to interpret the archaeological remains at Qumran. They argued that these remains should be interpreted independently, without any influence from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Various reinterpretations have led to various conclusions about the site. These include:

Qumran as fortress

The overlooked early suggestion that Qumran was a fortress was given new life by the analysis of Pessach Bar-Adon. Using de Vaux's Period 1a findings, his own excavations at Ain el-Ghuweir 15 km south of Qumran, and Mazar
Benjamin Mazar
Benjamin Mazar was a pioneering Israeli historian, recognized as the "dean" of biblical archaeologists. He shared the national passion for the archaeology of Israel that also attracts considerable international interest due to the region's biblical links...

's level 2 at 'En-Gedi, Bar-Adon argued, "these fortresses [belonged] to John Hyrcanus, who needed a strong, comprehensive defence system commanding vital water sources, agricultural fields, flocks, Jordan River crossings, the plains of Jericho and the caravan routes in the Judean desert. He turned the Qumran-Ain Feshka oasis, like the one at En-Gedi, into crown property and incorporated his tenants into his strategic plans."

Norman Golb
Norman Golb
Norman Golb is the Ludwig Rosenberger Professor in Jewish History and Civilization at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. He earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1954. He joined the faculty of the Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati in 1958 before settling at the...

 took up the notion that the Qumran settlement was established as a fortress and argued—against the prevailing views of the time—that not only was Qumran not established as a sectarian residence, but that there were no sectarians at the site at all. Like Rengstorf he proposed that the Scrolls had been produced in Jerusalem, but unlike Rengstorf, Golb argues that the scrolls came from different libraries throughout Jerusalem and were hidden in the caves by Jews fleeing the Romans during a political uprising.

Qumran as villa

Robert Donceel and Pauline Donceel-Voûte focused their research on the small finds amongst de Vaux's unpublished materials from Qumran, including, but not limited to, glassware (55 newly catalogued items), stoneware (53 new items), metal wares, and coins. Contrary to the belief that the inhabitants of the site were poor monastics, Donceel and Donceel-Voûte suggest that the residents were actually wealthy traders, with connections to the upper class and wealthy in nearby Jerusalem. They ultimately suggest that Qumran was a villa rustica
Villa rustica
Villa rustica was the term used by the ancient Romans to denote a villa set in the open countryside, often as the hub of a large agricultural estate . The adjective rusticum was used to distinguish it from an urban or resort villa...

, or wealthy manor house, that may have been a winter or year-round second home to some wealthy family from Jerusalem. (At the same conference as the Donceel's presentation, J. Magness reported that from what she saw of the pottery in the Rockefeller Museum that "there was very, very little in the way of fine wares." Eric Meyers, next, said "I concur; my visits also corroborate that. I see an affirmative nod from Professor Donceel-Voute." Rachel Bar-Nathan also notes, "[a]t Jericho, there is also a striking lack of luxury ware, with only a few painted shards in the whole repertoire.")

Qumran as commercial center

While the villa model has gained little support, the evidence that it tried to deal with has led to further attempts at explanation.

Lena Cansdale and Alan Crown argued for the first time that the settlement was a fortified road station and a port town on the shores of the Dead Sea, meaning that the site was actually a prominent commercial site (or "entrepot") on a major north-south trade route.

Yizhar Hirschfeld
Yizhar Hirschfeld
Yizhar Hirschfeld was an Israeli archaeologist studying Greco-Roman and Byzantine archaeology. He was an associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and director of excavations at a number of sites around Israel, including Ramat Hanadiv, Tiberias, and Khirbet ed-Deir...

 accepted that Qumran was originally a Hasmonean fortress. Citing his work at ‘Ein Feshkha
Ein Feshkha
Ein Feshkha is a nature reserve and archaeological site on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about three kilometers south of Qumran in the nation of Israel. It is named for a spring of brackish water in the area...

 as a comparison, he suggested that the site at Qumran ultimately became an agriculturally-based, fortified trading station during the Herodian era.

Yizhak Magen and Yuval Peleg have focused their 10-year excavation at Qumran upon the vast water system at Qumran. They accept that the site was originally a "forward field fort", but argue that the site was repurposed as a pottery production plant, and that the water system was actually used to bring the clay-laced water into the site for the purpose of pottery production. Y. Magen and Y. Peleg proposed that Qumran was a pottery export site and said clay in pool 71 was used. (Samples of that clay have now been analysed, and they do not match tested Qumran pottery. "This information goes straight against" the Magen Peleg proposal, according to scientists J. Gunneweg and M. Balla. J. Michniewicz responding to previous analyses of Balla and Gunneweg, wrote, "Balla and Gunneweg's conclusions are corroborated neither by information about which elements were taken for statistical interpretation and which determined the division particularly strongly.... nor by the reference data or statistical computation".)

Qumran as part of the Jordan valley

Rachel Bar-Nathan rejects the claim that dishware found at Qumran shows any sectarian characteristic, and proposes that such pottery has also been found in varying quantities at Masada, Jericho and other sites in the region.

David Stacey argues that the settlement at Qumran is associated with the estate at Jericho. Due to the scarcity of year-round water at Qumran, he suggests that the site served as a seasonal tannery and pottery production facility.

Other issues

Recent scientific evidence published by Ira Rabin, Oliver Hahn, Timo Wolff, Admir Masic, and Gisela Weinberg demonstrates that the ink from The Thanksgiving Scroll uses water taken from the Dead Sea and vicinity thereby demonstrating a link between the Dead Sea region and at least some of the scrolls.

Paleographer Ada Yardeni analysed and listed dozens of manuscripts from most of the caves (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 11) that she assigns to a single scribe who she refers to as a "Qumran scribe". Yardeni cautions against claims of scribal hands being as many as 500 and claims that the manuscripts are a cross-section of then-current literature from many distant libraries, deposited in a short time.

Gila Kahila Bar-Gal, determined that some of the skin used for the Dead Sea scrolls came from the Nubian ibex, whose range did not include Jerusalem, but includes the Hermon and Golan heights, the Negev highlands and the western shore of the Dead Sea.

Scholarly articles on the site of Qumran

Other links relevant to the site of Qumran

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.