Biblical Archaeology Review 25:5, September/October 1999

Who Lies Here?

Jordan tombs match those at Qumran

By Hershel Shanks

Not whodunit but whoisit? The mystery deepens. I mean the mystery of the cemetery at Qumran with its 1,200 graves. Who was buried there? The conventional wisdom is that it was the Essenes. The reasoning goes like this: Sectarian manuscripts among the Dead Sea Scrolls sound like they were written around the turn of the era by the obscure Jewish sect known as the Essenes. The settlement at Qumran is close to the caves where the scrolls were found; indeed, the cave with the largest number of texts (Cave 4, which contained more than 500) is practically part of the settlement. Given the proximity of the settlement to the caves, the apparently Essene character of the sectarian scrolls, and the puzzling architecture of the settlement, Qumran must have been a kind of communal religious outpost of the Essenes. And since the cemetery is just outside the wall of the Essene settlement, the people buried in the cemetery must be Essene. Q.E.D.

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