The Qumran Community
---Farmers and Shepherds
“They are then dismissed by their superiors to the various crafts in which they are severally proficient and are strenuously employed until the fifth hour.” (Josephus, Jewish War II, viii, 5)
In keeping with its separatist nature, the community at Qumran functioned as an independent productive unit, fulfilling its basic needs by maximum exploitation of the natural resources available nearby. After the morning prayers, each member went off to his daily work.
The Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, in his description of the Essenes, wrote, “Some of them are farmers, proficient in sowing and growing plants; some of them are shepherds, who rear various animals; and some of them deal with swarms of bees” (Philo, Apologia pro Iudaeis XI). Indeed, in the vicinity of Ein Feshkha, about 3 km south of Khirbet Qumran, remains have been found of a building and installations that may have belonged to a farm where date palms were cultivated. Further evidence of agricultural activity is provided by scythes, a hoe, and traces of date palms, fronds, dried dates, and pits discovered at Khirbet Qumran and its environs. In addition, various cereals, mainly barley, were probably grown in the el-Buqei‘a Plain, above the ridge. Remains of animal bones unearthed near the central building indicate that the members of the Community may have also raised farm animals and hunted ibexes, and some authorities believe that they raised fish in the area of Ein Feshkha.