Israel Antiquities Authority

Father J. T. Milik, a member of the original scroll editing team, brushes dirt off broken dishes discovered in the Qumran pantry, in this excavation photo. The 708 bowls, 210 plates, 75 beakers, 38 dishes and 21 small jars uncovered in the room (room 5 on the plan) clearly suggest that great crowds once dined in the neighboring dining room. Roland de Vaux, who led the excavations from 1951 to 1956, used the archaeological clues discovered among the ruins and his knowledge of the scrolls stashed in nearby caves to identify Qumran as the wilderness retreat of the Essenes, an isolated religious community that he claimed was responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls. Authors Crown and Cansdale argue that the dining hall actually served ordinary commercial travelers who could not afford the more exotic delights of the nearby bench-lined triclinium, or Roman-style dining room.