History and Archaeology of Ancient Qumran



By the Editors of the Madain Project

Ancient Qumran, known as Khirbet Qumran (خربة قمران) in Arabic, is an archaeological site in the West Bank area of ancient Israel/Palestine. It is located on a dry marl plateau about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) from the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the historic city of Jericho.

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947–1956, extensive excavations have taken place in Qumran. Nearly 900 scrolls were discovered. Most were written on parchment and some on papyrus. Cisterns, Jewish ritual baths, and cemeteries have been found, along with a dining or assembly room and debris from an upper story alleged by some to have been a scriptorium as well as pottery kilns and a tower.

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Archaeology in Ancient Qumran

Featured Article Qumran Pottery

Pottery from ancient Qumran, particularly associated with the archaeological site near the Dead Sea, is significant due to its connection to the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery. The Qumran site is famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish texts dating back to the Second Temple period. Pottery found at Qumran provides valuable insights into the material culture and daily life of the community that inhabited the area. Archaeologists have unearthed a variety of pottery vessels at Qumran, including jars, bowls, plates, cooking pots, and other domestic items. Pottery items from Qumran served various functions in daily life, such as storage, cooking, and serving food.


Featured Article Qumran Roundel

The Qumran roundel, also known as the Qumran Sundial (possibly), is a mud roundel discovered in the Qumran Caves, bearing markings similar to a sundial. Measuring about 6 inches in diameter, it features a central hole where a small stick can be inserted, casting a shadow to indicate the time. Scholars have suggested its use as an odometer for measuring time, reflecting the Qumran community's interest in time measurement. Some propose that the Qumran roundel might function as an equatorial sundial, providing a way not only to measure time but also to serve additional purposes. Its historical significance lies in its representation of the Qumran community's engagement with timekeeping methods, particularly through shadow-casting devices like sundials.


Recommended Readings

Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran

Sidnie White Crawford

In Scribes and Scrolls at Qumran, Sidnie White Crawford combines the conclusions of the first generation of scrolls scholars that have withstood the test of time, new insights that have emerged since the complete publication of the scrolls corpus, and the much more complete archaeological picture that we now have of Khirbet Qumran.
See on Amazon

The Community Rules from Qumran A Commentary (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism)

Charlotte Hempel

In this volume, Charlotte Hempel offers the first comprehensive commentary on all twelve ancient manuscripts of the Rules of the Community, works which contain the most important descriptions of the organisation and values ascribed to the movement associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls.
See on Amazon

Qumran and Christian Origins

Jörg Frey

Qumran and Christian Origins examines the hermeneutical framework of Qumran scholarship, patterns for relating the scrolls to early Christianity, and the methodological challenges faced by comparisons between Qumran texts and New Testament writings. In a critical evaluation of earlier views, Frey provides a summary of the Scrolls’ impact on our views of the historical Jesus.
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The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated The Qumran Texts in English

Ann Regimbal

One of the world's foremost experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran community that produced them provides an authoritative new English translation of the two hundred longest and most important nonbiblical Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran.
See on Amazon

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