Introduction

            Our journey begins with a treacherous walk through the dry Jordan Valley in the Judean desert, towards the eastern shore of the still salt lake that is known as the Dead Sea. We are at the lowest place on earth, the location of “the greatest archaeological discovery of our time”—the Dead Sea Scrolls. Broadly speaking, this term applies to ancient documents that have been found at a number of archaeological sites in the region. More often, it is used to refer to the most spectacular of these finds—the collection of thousands of fragments, and a handful of well-preserved scrolls, that were recovered from eleven caves overlooking the archaeological site of Khirbet Qumran at the northwestern edge of the Dead Sea. Because of the closeness of the caves to the site and the unique nature of the archaeological remains, a majority of scholars believe that the ruins of Qumran offer important evidence about the community of the Scrolls. The combined evidence of the texts and the material remains enables us to reconstruct how the “Dead Sea Sect” lived, worked, and studied here at Qumran between the end of the 2nd century BCE through the time of the first Jewish Revolt in the 1st century (66–70) CE.

            Qumran archaeologist Prof. Jodi Magness, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will be your guide on this tour of the Qumran caves and the Qumran settlement, where researchers continue to unearth the story of Qumran.