“Q” is for Qumran

The Enumeration of the Caves of Qumran.


  Map of Cave Locations

After the first two “scroll caves” were discovered in 1947 (Cave 1Q) and 1952 (Cave 2Q), a survey of the cliffs in the vicinity of Qumran was conducted during March 1952. Upon completion of the survey, the caves and sites which contained archaeological remains were numbered, from north to south, “Survey Cave GQ1” through “Survey Cave GQ40.” Certain scroll caves that were found in the cliffs (specifically, 1Q, 2Q, 3Q, and 6Q) were also assigned Survey cave numbers (GQ14, GQ19, GQ8 and GQ26, respectively). Subsequent caves in which manuscripts were discovered were numbered in the sequence of their discovery, yielding Scroll caves 1Q through 11Q, the last being discovered in January 1956. These two separate numbering systems were conceived at that time and continue to be used for all Qumran caves of archaeological import identified between 1947 and 1956. However, the two categories of caves and their numbers have often become confused in the literature. In April 1956 two adjacent caves without manuscripts were discovered and excavated to the northeast of cave 3Q (=GQ8) and were called “Cave A” and “Cave B.” In 1963, Southwest of Ein Feshkha, an additional cave with abundant remains, but no manuscripts, was discovered by John Allegro and his team as part of the “Copper Scroll Expedition” and was dubbed “The Christmas Cave,” since King Hussein of Jordan visited the cave on that day. A third system of enumeration has arisen with the cave surveys and excavations of Y. Patrich between 1984 and 1991, for which we will use the numbers “PQ1–PQ24.”


F.F. Bruce and S.J. Pfann, ‘Qumran’, Encyclopedia Judaica (New York: Keter and Macmillan Publishers, 2006)

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