View of the staircase that leads down into one of the eight cisterns/ritual baths at Qumran. Note the plaster still clinging to the wall on the right. The stairs were made of stones and then plastered. In the upper portion of the image two lines of plaster are clearly visible—these would help divert incoming water down one side of the staircase.
Some have suggested that members of the community (Essenes?) frequently immersed themselves out of their concern for ritual purity—possibly descending down one side of the staircase in a state of impurity and then ascending the other in a purified state.
It has been suggested that the crack in the ritual bath, from the upper left to the lower right, was due to the earthquake of 31 B.C. Father de Vaux suggested that there might have been a gap in the occupation of Qumran from the destruction of 31 B.C. until the reign of Herod’s son Archelaus (4 B.C. to A.D. 6) but this view is now questioned by some.
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