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Map of the Dead Sea Caves

The Dead Sea Scrolls

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Map of the Dead Sea Scroll Caves and Qumran

Map of the Dead Sea Scroll Caves and Qumran

Pacific Science Center, Seattle
The location of the caves where the scrolls were found is within the rugged cliffs on the western shore of the salty Dead Sea. In the midst of the caves is the archaeological site of Qumran, thought by most scholars to be a settlement for the Jewish religious sect who wrote and kept the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The site of Qumran was first visited by Europeans in 1851, when a Flemish explorer named Louis-Felicien Caignart de Saulcy took an expedition to the Dead Sea, and visited Ein Feshkha, and Khirbet Qumran. The site is built of mud brick and cut and uncut stone, a cemetery containing about 1,000 graves. The name Qumran is from the nearby riverbed, called Wadi Qumran, and may be derived from the Arabic word for 'moonlight'. Qumran's ancient name was Secacah, one of six desert towns mentioned in the Old Testament book of Joshua.

In the mid 1940s, bedouin pastoralists discovered a cache of scrolls in what was to be later named Cave 1, located about a half mile from the site of Qumran. Additional caves were identified throughout the 1950s, with the last cave (Cave 11) discovered in 1956. Some of the scrolls had been stored in jars within the caves--these scrolls are in the best shape. Others were apparently stored on wooden shelves and these have been badly fragmented over time.

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