Location: Map


Description of Qumran

Qumran (Hebrew: חירבת קומראן) is located on a dry plateau near an Israeli kibbutz Kalia. It is most famous for secret texts that were discovered here by the Bedouins in the middle of the 20th century. They were hidden in the Qumran caves in 69- 71 AD to hide from the incoming Roman army. Qumran is located on the North- West shore of the Dead Sea. In the middle of the 20th centuries archaeologists discovered numerous biblical scrolls after a Bedouin boy reported an initial discovery. These texts were hidden by a small Judaic community of Essenes. Jars were kept here in secret for the past 20 centuries. This discovery caused a sensation in the scientific world and influenced the study of the history of Judaism and Christianity.


Tourists who come to Qumran can explore the ruins of the ancient settlement dating back to the Second Temple including catchment tank, with two rectangular ponds, ceramic furnaces and many others signs of the vibrant and rich community that once flourished here. First settlement of this religious group date back to 130s, but by 100s the city grew in size. Essenes built two and even three storey buildings and set up a complex system of water delivery, reservoirs and many channels. Water was supplied via an aqueduct from the gorge of Wadi Qumran where the dam was built. This dam gathered rain water and springs water.


An interesting feature of Qumran settlement is lack of bedrooms. It is quiet possible that people slept in the nearby caves and tens. Stone buildings were used for study, storage and art work of the locals.


Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls

The site was settled in the second century BC by a school of Judaism that came to be known as Essenes. These Jews refused the worldly goods and chose to live celibate lives in a community away from the corrupt priesthood and temptations of the society. A long dining hall for the members of the community was a place where they all ate and gathered. Cisterns and ritual baths were damaged by an earthquake of 31 BC, but aside from cracks did not cause large damage. A cemetery to the north of the site with over 1200 graves was found, but only few were excavated due to Israeli laws against grave digging.


The community is most famous for their Dead Sea scrolls. Arab shepherd boys found the site in 1946 by accident in the caves just to the west of the settlement. They threw couple of rocks into an opening and then they heard the sound of the broken pottery they decided to call for help. Excavations by father Roland de Vaux in 1951- 1953 yielded truly amazing results. Since then over 1000 of scrolls were found in eleven caves. Besides books of Old Testament it has texts that describe treasure descriptions and direction where they were buried. Unfortunately that yielded no successful finds. A common misconception puts Christian texts among the works Essenes. Despite what Dan Brown has to say in his “Da Vinci Code” there is no evidence of any apocryphal gospels. In fact texts were written a century before birth of Christ and although some similarities occur it is largely due to the fact that the base of Judaism is the same. However it is somewhat probable that John the Baptist and even Jesus Christ might have lived here and influenced by the views of the Essenes.


The scrolls were hidden in the caves for the safekeeping against the invading Roman army that captured Jerusalem and swept through the area. Essenes apparently left the community, but their legacy left a mark on Judaic and Christian traditions. Large number of Essenes converted to Christianity and laid foundation for monastic tradition in Christian Europe.