National Geographic : 1958 Dec
7 Plan of Khirbat Qumran, Essene Community Center, 31 B.C. The Essenes erected their religious center about 100 B.C. upon the ruins of an Israelite settlement dating from the 8th century B.C. Consisting of a building complex 128 yards long by 80 yards wide, the center was the focus of the sect's communal life. Scientists believe, however, that the members lived in tents and near-by caves rather than in the Qumran buildings. For the archeological history of Khirbat Qumran, the world is indebted to the series of campaigns directed by Pere Roland de Vaux of the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. Diagram by National Geographic cartographer Gilbert H. Emerson. Less than 16 miles from both Jerusalem and Bethlehem lie the ruins of Qumran, the Essenes' "house of exile." and near by are the caves in which the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found. The Dead Sea is 25 percent salt. But the spring of 'Ayn Fashkhah provides fresher water, and there the community built an agricultural outpost. Scientists and Bedouin have uncovered 11 caves containing Essene material. In addition, other manuscripts have been unearthed at Khirbat al Mird, the ruin of a Byzantine monastery. "The fruit of holiness shall be on my tongue... ." Only full members, those ad mitted to the Purity of the Many, could participate in the daily communal meals at Qumran. The Essenes, wrote Josephus, "repair to the refectory as to some sacred shrine." And the scrolls describe how "the priest shall stretch out his hand first to pronounce a blessing with the first portion of the bread and the wine." Befitting the sect's asceticism. Essene fare was simple; Josephus reports the serving of only one dish at a meal. Archeologists at Qumran have unearthed jars containing bones of sheep, lambs, goats, cows, and calves. These appear to be the leftovers of ceremonial feasts. Sunlight streams in on just such a scene. As the Many take their Spartan repast on the floor of the refectory, a priest stands on the dais inter preting the scroll held by his assistant in the foreground.