The History of Qumran

The first buildings at Qumran are dated to the Iron Age, around the seventh or eighth century BC during the First Temple Period. The site consisted of a small fortified farmhouse or Judahite fort and a deep circular cistern. 

The settlement was restored and grew during the second and early first centuries BC. The demand for water required for desert existence and ritual bathing was met by two additional cisterns along with an aqueduct and dam. Limited living quarters indicate a small permanent residence while hills and large halls served for public functions, along with a dining area with adjacent kitchen. Ritual baths (Mikva'ot) were built according to the specific requirements set out in the Mishnah

An Earthquake caused severe damage to the settlement and led to its abandonment in 31 BC. 

At the beginning of the first century AD, the Essene community restored the Qumran. New buildings included a long room of benches, low tables and small inkwells, suggesting that this was a scriptorium where holy writings and laws that governed the community were copied. There were probably no more than a few dozen leaders who permanently occupied the site while many lived in neighbouring tents, huts and caves, indicated by findings of stone circles and pottery vessels. 

The cemetery contains some 1200 tombs, most of which are male but there are some which belong to women and children. That tombs belonging to women and children are found is a curious mystery given what is believed to be a celibate male community. The suggestion is that these were later burials by intermittent Bedouin. 

Qumran was finally destroyed during the Jewish-Roman war in 68 AD. It has never since been resettled. 

When Flemish archaeologist Louis-Félicien Caignart de Saulcy first investigated the site in 1850, he concluded that it was Gomorrah of the Old Testament. Today, however, a more popular view among scholars is that Qumran is Secacah, one of the six villages named in Joshua 15.


The History of Qumran