Qumran is an archaeological site near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.
The Hellenistic period settlement was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus (134–104 BCE) or somewhat later, was occupied most of the time until 68 CE and was destroyed by the Romans possibly as late as 73. It is best known as the settlement nearest to the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden, caves in the sheer desert cliffs and beneath, in the marl terrace. The principal excavations at Qumran were conducted by Roland de Vaux in the 1950s, though several later unearthing’s at the site have since been carried out.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority took over the site following the end of the 1967 war, when Israel seized Qumran. Israel has since invested heavily in the area to establish the Qumran caves as a site of “uniquely Israeli Jewish heritage”.
Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947–1956, extensive excavations have taken place in Qumran. Nearly 900 scrolls were discovered. Most were written on parchment and some on papyrus. Cisterns, Jewish ritual baths, and cemeteries have been found, along with a dining or assembly room and debris from an upper story alleged by some to have been a scriptorium as well as pottery kilns and a tower.
Many scholars believe the location was home to a Hebrew sect, probably the Essenes. But, according to Lawrence Schiffman, the rules of the community, its heavy stress on priesthood and the Zadokite legacy, and other details indicate a Sadducean-oriented sect either distinct from or one of the various Essene groupings. Others propose non-sectarian interpretations, some of these starting with the notion that it was a Hasmonean fort that was later transformed into a villa for a wealthy family, or a production center, perhaps a pottery factory or something 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 following is a synopsis of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We advise that some of the latter content might be considered outside the jurisdiction of mainstream Judaism, while suited for ChristianZionist followers.