Figure 1 shows an aerial photograph of the Qumran archaeological site, located on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, about 1 km from the sea. The following three fundamental elements appear in it:
· Settlement of Khirbet Qumran. It is a heap of ruins known since ancient times. Archaeological excavations at this site began in the 1950s, after in 1947 some shepherds had discovered ancient manuscripts in a cave (later named 1Q) near Khirbet Qumran.
· Cemeteries. Three cemeteries have been identified near Khirbet Qumran, known since the 19th century. The largest, visible in Figure 1, contains about 1100 tombs. The other two, not far from the main cemetery, contain twelve and thirty graves. The main cemetery is very close to the settlement of Khirbet Qumran, the minimum distance between the two elements is only 27 meters.
· Caves. In the vicinity of the Khirbet Qumran site, eleven caves, numbered from 1Q to 11Q, containing the well-known Qumran manuscripts, in reality a huge quantity of scroll fragments, mostly written in the 1950s, have been identified and explored. paleo Hebrew. Caves 4Q, 5Q, 6Q, 7Q, 8Q, 9Q and 10Q are about a hundred meters from Khirbet Qumran only, they are practically visible in Figure 1. Caves 1Q, 2Q, 3Q and 11Q are just over 1 km from the ruins (see Figure 2). The discovery that one of these caves, 1Q, contained ancient manuscripts has given impetus to archaeological research at the site of Khirbet Qumran and in the surrounding areas. Thus it was discovered that ancient manuscripts were kept in the other caves, while no written documents have been found at the site of Khirbet Qumran. About 3 km south of Khirbet Qumran is the archaeological site of Ain Feshkna, much smaller than Khirbet Q. Ain Feshkna appears to be a small industrial outpost associated with local agriculture. He was related by de Vaux to Khirbet Qumran. 24 km south of Khirbet Qumran is the site of Ain El-Ghuweir, with characteristics similar to those of Ain Feshkna. Both of these sites are close to freshwater springs. Unlike Ain Feshkna, Ain El-Ghuweir also has a cemetery like Khirbet Qumran, although it is much smaller.
Figure 1 – The archaeological site of Qumran with the three elements that distinguish it: the ancient ruins of Khirbet Qumran, the main cemetery (in the figure the largest of three cemeteries is visible, which contains approximately 1100 tombs), the caves in the which were found the famous Qumran manuscripts (some caves are about 1 km away from Khirbet Qumran and are not visible in the figure) explored for the first time in the 1950s.
Following the discovery in 1947 by some Arab shepherds of what was later called cave 1Q, it was decided to subject the entire area of Khirbet Qumran to archaeological excavations in order to obtain indications that would help to reveal some aspects of the scrolls: who wrote them, hypotheses about their dating, etc … The ruins of Khirbet Qumran, known long before the discovery of the manuscripts of the surrounding caves, were excavated between 1951 and 1956 by a team of archaeologists headed by Father R. de Vaux (1903-1970), a Dominican biblist and archaeologist of the École Biblique et Archéologique in Jerusalem, of which he was then director. In Khirbet Qumran no epigraph containing inscriptions or written documents was found, therefore, to establish a chronology of the different historical phases of the site, we mainly based on the information provided by the coins found in the various layers of the soil.