After Philip R. Davies, Qumran

The desolate setting of the Qumran ruins—located between the Judean Desert cliffs and the western shore of the Dead Sea—suggests the austerity and isolation of the community, usually identified as the Essenes, that lived here from the second century B.C.E. until about 68 C.E. According to the sectarian scrolls found in nearby caves, the group’s guiding principles included the rejection of wealth and the promotion of communal living. This is reflected in the plan of the settlement, which includes public baths and cisterns, a large dining room for group meals, large workrooms and spacious courtyards. (The photo and plan are aligned roughly to the north; the lushest, freestanding tree in the photo stands just behind the tower remains, marked 1 on the plan.)