In a society entirely accustomed to the use of maps and charts, atlases and gazetteers, it is difficult to imagine times when this would not have been the case. It has become so customary to view maps with north at the top that it is easy to assume that everyone shared this worldview. This particular question can be related specifically to the debate about whether Qumran, the site associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a settlement of the group known as the Essenes. An ancient description of the Essenes (by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History 5) says that ‘below the Essenes was the town of Engedi’. To the modern reader, this might naturally suggest that Engedi, on the western shore of the Dead Sea, was situated to the south of this Essene centre, a description which fits the site of Qumran. But the significance of Pliny's description could be that the Essene headquarters lay in the hills above Engedi. (It is highly likely that Qumran was an Essene centre, but whether Pliny's description proves this is more open to debate.) The Madaba Map (see p. 10 ) has an east–west orientation.