Qumran: site where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.
- The Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of almost 1,000 ancient Jewish religious texts, were discovered in the late 1940s and early 1950s near a ruin called Qumran
- This ruin consisted of an Iron Age tower and a serious of more recent buildings that surrounded it. The oldest coins dated to the late mid-second century BCE. There was also a cemetery.
- The first excavators believed they had found some kind of ancient monastery, where the scrolls in the caves were written.
- This interpretation has been criticized. The building looks more like a farm and the excavators made methodological errors. For example, every pool was interpreted as a a mikveh (a bath used for ritual immersions). The presence of layers of clay at the bottom of these "ritual baths", however, suggests that they were in fact used to purify clay that could be used by potters.
- An alternative interpretation of the ruin was that it was a farm where dates were produced.
- However, there is some relation between the ruin of Qumran and the scrolls in the nearby caves. For example, access to three of the caves is only possible from the ruin, where many inkwells have been found as well. Most important: there was a large cemetery near the building - in fact very, very close to it, suggesting that people wanted to be buried near it. All this does not fit the idea that the ruins were a date farm.
- A possible answer can be given when we understand the scrolls, which appear to be the libraries (plural) of a religious sect (especially the scrolls from Cave 1) and several related groups. This sect cannot be identified, although it is not uncommon (especially in the Anglo-Saxon literature) to call them "Essenes".
- Perhaps the building, although essentially a farm, was sacred to the sectarians because a holy person, like the founder of the sect, had lived over there.
- In any case, when the Romans attacked Galilee and Judaea during the Jewish War, people seem to have brought their libraries over here.
- Cave 4, however, is completely different from the others. It may have been a genizah, a storage for old or damaged religious literature.