Qumran Sectarian Literature
In the spring of 1947, the accidental uncovering of scrolls hidden in a cave near Jericho led to one of the most spectacular discoveries of the century, namely that of the oldest Hebrew literary manuscripts, now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Between 1948 and 1956, eleven caves with manuscripts (designated as caves 1-11) were discovered near the site known as Khirbet Qumran, on the north corner of the western shore of the Dead Sea.1 The findings aroused interest in the site of Qumran itself, and systematic excavations were conducted. At the same time an archaeological survey was made of the entire area between Qumran and Ein Feshkha, a site near a spring, three kilometers south of Qumran. Pottery and other remains found at Qumran, in the caves and near Ein Feshkha, point to the same period of settlement and to the same people.2 The main periods of occupation at Qumran correspond to the dates of the scrolls. Qumran was inhabited mainly between 150 B.C.E. and 68 C.E.3 The remains of a small Israelite settlement, dating from the 8th to the 6th centuries B.C.E.,4 were resettled during the reign of Simon (142-134 B.C.E.).5 During this first major occupation period, extensive building took place and the settlement acquired its definitive shape: a large enclosure with a network of cisterns and water channels, workshops, a warehouse and an assembly hall. This period terminates with a great fire and an earthquake, possibly the earthquake of 31
1 The story of the discovery has been told many times. Cf. Milik, Ten Years, 11-19; Cross, Library, 3-20; Vermes, Qumran in Perspective, 9-24.
2 Cf. De Vaux, Archaeology, 53-57,91-109.
3 Cf. the summary of De Vaux, Archaeology, the head of the excavations. Another, more recent résumée of the archaeological evidence was published by Laperrousaz, Qoumrân. He bases himself mainly on De Vaux’s work, but supplements it and differs from it in the interpretation of a number of details. Carbon 14 tests of organic remains indicate a span of time around the beginning of the Era. Cf. De Vaux, A rchaeology, 50, 101.
4 Sometimes identified with the biblical City of Salt (Josh 15:61-62). Cf. Milik-Cross, ‘Chronique,’ 75; De Vaux, Archaeology, 922. Recently Bar-Adon suggested an identification with the biblical Sekâkâh, while the City of Salt he identifies with Ein Aituraba, south of Ein Ghuweir. Both cities figure in the same list in Joshua 15; cf. Bar-Adon, ‘Hasmonean Fortresses’, 352.
5 Cf. Milik, Ten Years, 51; De Vaux, A rchaeology, 19; Cross, Library, 58, 122.