The Qumran Community
---Communal Areas: Kirbet Qumran
“On the west side of the Dead Sea, but out of range of the noxious exhalations of the coast, is the solitary tribe of the Essenes. . . .” (Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis V, 17, 4)
Khirbet Qumran is situated at the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, some 40 km east of Jerusalem. The name “Qumran” is modern; it is derived from the Arabic qamar, meaning “moon.” The name of the site in the Second Temple period was apparently Secacah.
Jewish settlement at Qumran began around the year 100 BCE. It came to an end in 68 CE, when the settlement was destroyed by the Romans during the Great Revolt. Most modern scholars believe that the Community belonged to a secessionist sect of Essenes, the Community of the yahad, who had left Jerusalem.
Two main structures have been identified at the site: a square building in the east, and another building in the west, built around an ancient water cistern, a remnant of some earlier settlement dating to the First Temple period. The eastern building was the inhabitants’ communal center, with a kitchen, scriptorium, library, and refectory, which also doubled as an assembly hall. The western building seems to have served as an administrative center. A sophisticated water system and several ritual baths, concentrated around the refectory, were also discovered at the site, as was a large cemetery, with some 1,200 graves, which was situated nearby.