Khirbet Qumran is the Arabic name for a site situated along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea approximately 10 miles south of Jericho. At this location, in the late 1940s, a young Bedouin shepherd stumbled upon what is arguably the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, the Dead Sea Scrolls.
After the discovery of the first cave, which contained the Great Isaiah Scroll, 10 more caves were found, all containing written material. More scrolls were subsequently found in two other caves further away from Qumran, along with some at Masada. In total, the remains of approximately nine hundred manuscripts were found, ranging in date from the middle of the third century B.C.E. to the mid-first century C.E.
Upon the initial discovery of the scrolls in the caves surrounding Qumran, the site was excavated under the assumption that the visible ruins were related to the scrolls. Though there is dispute about how to interpret the archaeological data, the majority of scholars today believe Qumran was home to a sect of Jews known as Essenes, to whom the scrolls belonged. The lifestyle of these people has often been compared to the monasticism that developed later in Christianity. It seems the people who were members of this group willingly subjected themselves to harsh desert living conditions. To deal with the difficulty of living in such a place, they built an elaborate system of aqueducts and cisterns to provide water for their drinking and ritual-bathing needs. The site was first occupied in the middle of the first century B.C.E. and was destroyed by the Romans in 67 C.E. For unknown reasons, the fleeing residents left their precious scrolls behind in the nearby caves. Thanks to the extremely arid conditions of the region, the scrolls were preserved for almost two thousand years before their rediscovery. Produced by RiddleMaps.com.