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The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea$
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Joan E. Taylor

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199554485

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199554485.001.0001

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The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls

(p.272) 11 The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea

Joan E. Taylor

Oxford University Press

The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the most important archaeological finds ever made. They are usually understood to have been hidden away quickly ahead of a Roman advance in 68 ce. However, the archaeological evidence testifying to the method of their containment in jars in caves indicates that they were carefully wrapped up in quality scroll wrappers and placed in sealed jars, with bitumen plugs, and this would have taken a long time to do. In addition, the remaining Dead Sea Scrolls are a tiny remainder of an original vast cache of manuscripts placed in caves. The scrolls make better sense if they are seen as purposeful burials, the final resting places of multiple genizahs — collections of old or heterodox scrolls. They were buried by the Essenes in order to preserve them till the End, in order to show reverence for the name of God or other holy references they contained. The reasons why some Essenes were living beside the Dead Sea must have something to do with the processes they needed to bury sacred scrolls in the caves along the north-western coast.

Keywords:   Essenes, Dead Sea Scrolls, caves, scroll wrappers, bitumen, manuscripts, genizah

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