Qumran Caves 001

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  • Title:  Qumran Caves 001
  • Description:  Qumran Caves are a series of caves, some natural, some artificial, found around the archaeological site of Qumran in the Judaean Desert of the West Bank. It is in a number of these caves that the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The caves are recognized in Israel as a National Heritage Site.

    The limestone cliffs above Qumran contain numerous caves that have been used over the millennia: the first traces of occupation are from the Chalcolithic period then onward to the Arab period. The artificial caves relate to the period of the settlement at Qumran and were cut into the marl bluffs of the terrace on which Qumran sits.

    In early 1947, a Bedouin boy of the Ta'amireh tribe found a cave after searching for a lost animal. He stumbled onto the first cave containing scrolls from two thousand years ago. More Ta'amireh visited the cave and scrolls were taken. They were shown to Mar Samuel of the Monastery of Saint Mark in April 1947 and the discovery was made known. The location of the cave was not revealed for another 18 months, but eventually a joint investigation of the cave site was led by Roland de Vaux and Gerald Lankester Harding.

    The interest in the scrolls with the hope of money initiated a long area-wide search by the Ta'amireh, the first result of which was the discovery of four caves in Wadi Murabba'at about 15 kms south of Qumran in 1951. In the Qumran area another cave was discovered, now referred to as Cave 2Q (1Q was the first cave), in 1952. However, only a few fragments were found. Fear of the destruction of archaeological evidence with the discovery of caves by the Bedouin led to a campaign by the French and American Schools to explore all other caves to find any remaining scrolls. Although 230 natural caves, crevices and other possible hiding places were examined in an 8 kilometer area along the cliffs near Qumran, only 40 contained any artifacts and one alone, 3Q, produced texts, the most unusual being the Copper Scroll.

    4Q was discovered in September 1952 with a vast amount of fragments. Harding find that the Bedouin had discovered caves very near the Qumran ruins. These were Caves 4Q, 5Q, and 6Q, the most important of which was 4Q which originally contained around three-quarters of all the scrolls found in the immediate Qumran area.

    In 1955 a survey brought to light a staircase leading down to the remains of three more artificial caves, 7Q, 8Q and 9Q at the end of the Qumran esplanade, all of which had collapsed and had been eroded, and a fourth cave, 10Q, on the outcrop which housed Caves 4Q & 5Q.

    In February 2017, the discovery of cave 12Q was announced, the contents of which included storage jars and scroll fragments, but no scrolls themselves. Iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s were also found, which indicate looting had occurred. In addition, archaeologists discovered pottery, flint blades, arrowheads, and a carnelian seal that date to the Chalcolithic and Neolithic periods.
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  • Keywords:  Caves, Qumran
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