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A site on the NE shore of the Dead Sea, above the left bank of wadi Qumrân. After the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in the nearby caves, the site was extensively excavated between 1951 and 1956. The habitation of one of the Dead Sea sects, it is well defended on all sides by gorges of wadis which cut their way to the Dead Sea in the soft marl. The earliest building remains on the site belonging to the Iron Age II, the 8th to the 6th c. B.C. The remains of the walls of this settlement were incorporated in those of the later enclosure, measuring some 75 m square. The entrance to the enclosure was by a massive tower on the N three stories high. A narrow passage led from the tower to the different parts of the settlement. The more important installations were to the S of the gate. Of these the excavators identified one as a scriptorium. To the E of it was a small court surrounded by the kitchen, laundry, and several reservoirs covered by a thick layer of plaster. South of this complex was a large assembly hall (19.5 x 10.5 m), close to which were a potter's workshop and a storage room in which were found hundreds of pottery vessels. The potter's workshop contained two kilns: one for the firing of ordinary kitchenware, the other for the jars in which the scrolls were kept. In the W part of the settlement were stores, workshops, a mill, a baking oven, granaries, and a stable for eight horses. There were also additional water reservoirs in this quarter. The whole water supply of the village depended on a dam which was built across wadi Qumrân from which an aqueduct and an intricate system of channels conveyed the water to each reservoir. To the E of the settlement was a cemetery containing no less than 1106 burials.

The earliest occupation level was that of the Iron Age II, probably to be identified with the City of Salt (Josh. 15:62). The next phase of occupation is attributed to John Hyrcanus I (135-104 B.C.). It is believed that the occupants of this settlement were the Essenes or the “Dead Sea sect.” The dating of this and the next phases depends mainly on coins. In the next phase, still in the Hellenistic period, the settlement assumed its final form. This settlement suffered severe destruction by fire and an earthquake, possibly in 31 B.C., to which Josephus alluded (AJ 15.141-47;BJ 1.370-80). In ca. 4 B.C., during the reign of Archelaus, the site was rebuilt along the original plan, but it was destroyed in A.D. 68 during the War against the Romans (JB 4.449). After that time a Roman garrison was stationed on the site. Coins from the time of the Bar Kohbah revolt bespeak a short-lived occupation of the site by Jewish refugees, after which the site was completely abandoned.


J. T. Milik, Ten Years of Discovery in the Wilderness of Judaea (1959); R. de Vaux, L'archéologie et les manuscrits de la Mer Morte (1961).


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