Excavator Roland de Vaux postulated that these installations (top photo) served as the desks of the Qumran scribes who carefully copied the manuscripts that came to be known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. These artifacts (shown as they were reconstructed for a museum exhibit) are a cornerstone of de Vaux’s theory that room 30 on his plan was a scriptorium. But as the drawing below shows, it would have been extremely awkward for a full-grown man to sit and write at these tables. Were they benches for sitting, couches for reclining, or tables for drawing rules on blank scrolls? Most scholars today admit that they do not know what they were used for.

Three inkwells, one bronze (center) and two ceramic, found by de Vaux at Qumran, support his arguments that the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied in the room he identified as a scriptorium.