Qumran National Park, famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, is an amazing archaeological site located just Northwest of the Dead Sea near Kibbutz Kalia. It is commonly thought that this settlement was originally occupied since 134-104 BCE until it was destroyed by the Romans in 68 CE.
Qumran National Park
It is now a National Park, where you can view many remnants of the original inhabitants including a potter’s workshop, water cisterns, Jewish ritual baths, scriptorium (writing room where it is believed the Dead Sea scrolls were written) and pottery kilns along with a dining hall or community room and a tower. There is also cemetery just east of the site containing thousands of remains, mostly male. Based on the size of the cemetery site, it is thought that about 200 people inhabited the settlement at one time.
Don’t miss: The visitor center features an exciting and informative short film explaining the history of the settlement with the story of its inhabitants. Also, the center provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the nearby caves in which some of the Dead Sea scrolls were found.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Currently, the Scrolls are actually not located at this site but at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem (I have been there, the building actually looks like a giant Hershey’s kiss). Actually, the scrolls were discovered between 1947-1956, in a series of eleven caves around Qumran. There is a debate among scholars as to what purpose these man made caves originally served. Some believe they were libraries while others claim they were domestic shelters for the residents of the settlement.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, considered to be the single greatest archaeological find of the 20th century contain the oldest known copies of the Hebrew bible. The scrolls date back to the 2nd century BCE to 70 CE and were written by the Essenes (a Jewish sect) and contain fragments of every biblical text with the exception of the Book of Esther.
These texts (mostly written on parchment and papyrus) are nearly identical to their modern versions supporting claims to the historical dating of the Hebrew bible.
Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls by a young Bedouin in 1947, extensive excavations have been taken place in this area and as a result nearly 900 scrolls in total have been found
Really Interesting note: The Scrolls were found by accident; the young Bedouin boy was searching for his lost sheep and threw a rock into a cave, he heard something break. Upon further inspection he found a collection of ceramic jars containing the scrolls.
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