British Museum collections, £12.99
Pottery lidded jar of the sort used to store the Dead Sea Scrolls
From Qumran, Israel, 1st century AD
A container for ancient manuscripts
This jar and lid were found with others at the site of Khirbet Qumran at the foot of cliffs in the desolate country overlooking the north-west shore of the Dead Sea. The building was the monastery of an extremely religious group of Jews, the Essenes, who had moved to seclusion there in about 150 BC. Excavations at Qumran have suggested that the site was destroyed by the Romans in AD 66-70 when the emperors Vespasian and Titus crushed a Jewish revolt.
In 1947 an Arab goat-herd, who was in pursuit of a runaway goat near the ruins of Khirbet Qumran, stumbled into a cave containing ancient Hebrew manuscripts. Now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the manuscripts had been stored in cylindrical jars like this one. They are thought to have come from the library of Qumran. The texts, although incomplete and fragmentary, include all the books of the Old Testament except Esther and the Apocrypha and were presumably deposited in the caves for safekeeping. They have provided valuable information on the development of the biblical texts and ideas current in the time of the rise of Christianity.
T.C. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museu (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)
J.N. Tubb, Canaanites (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)