The modern Arabic name for the site of the monastery on the Dead Sea, 14.4 km. (9 miles) south of Jericho, accommodating a group usually regarded as Essene in character, on account of a reference in the Natural History of Pliny the Elder (d. 79 CE) to an Essene community of men who lived on the western shore of the Dead Sea. The scrolls were discovered in eleven caves nearby in 1947 and following years, and the site of the monastery was excavated. It was occupied from about 100 BCE to 68 CE and was part of a wider movement but with its own distinctive roles. These included the observance of strict purity regulations and the assembly of a library of scrolls which were hidden just before the Romans reached the community in the war of 66–70 CE.

The community may have been an offshoot from a larger body established in Damascus under a leader known as the Teacher of Righteousness. The Damascus Document has many connections with Qumran beliefs and was composed in the last quarter of the second century BCE. The Teacher probably composed several of the Thanksgiving Hymns of the Qumran scrolls. It has been suggested that the Teacher had been high priest in Jerusalem from 159–152 BCE and was ousted by Jonathan.