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Qumran Embroideries

Caves of Qumran, West Bank, Palestine. Caves of Qumran, West Bank, Palestine.

The site of Qumran (Khirbet Qumran) is located on an arid plateau along the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, on the West Bank, Palestine, some twelve km south of Jericho. The settlement was constructed during the reign of John Hyrcanus (164-104 BC), a Hasmonean (Maccabean) leader. The village was destroyed by the Romans in AD 68.

Qumran is known as the hiding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date to between the third century BC and the mid-first century AD, and which were found in eleven caves in the nearby desert cliffs. They had been deposited there in or briefly after AD 68. Nearly nine hundred scrolls were discovered between 1947 and 1956. In addition, a wide range of household goods were found, including textiles. Several of these textiles were embroidered.

One piece attributed to the Qumran Caves (DSS-27), is a tabby weave linen with traces of a geometric design in a brown silk yarn. The stitch has been identified as a darning stitch. The condition of the textile, however, was so poor that the pattern could not be identified, but it was suggested that the design is of a medieval date, but with no further details. The textile had been purchased from a local antiquity dealer who claimed that it was "from Qumran cave 2", but it was later described as most probably originating from the nearby Wadi Murabba`at.

In 1995 eighteen scrolls and two linen fragments from the Qumran Caves, including the abovementioned embroidery fragment, were the subject of radiocarbon dating. The embroidered textile was dated to between AD 1279 and 1376, and therefore does not belong to the context of the Dead Sea Scrolls.


  • JULL, A. J. Timothy, et al., 1995. ‘Radiocarbon dating of scrolls and linen fragments from the Judean Desert,' Radiocarbon, 27, pp. 11-19.
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016), 'Embroideries from archaeological and historical sources from the Eastern Mediterranean and Iraq,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 71-77, esp. p. 73.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 3 June 2016)


Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 13:03