It is they who left for posterity the famous "Dead Sea Scrolls". These scrolls, found by chance in 1947, became the earliest known writings on Jewish religious and social themes found so far. Until then, the earliest that were available dated to around the late-middle ages - circa 14-15th Centuries.
Having been written and preserved from 250 B.C.E. onwards, until the Essenes' last days, they threw our knowledge backwards by nearly 1500 years!
The writings consist mainly of three distinct types: Their social order; parts of their secular writings and writings on theological topics, like the use of phylacteries, some of the Psalms and an incredible complete Book of Isaiah. This last is remarkable in that it is identical - after two thousand years - to the Book of Isaiah currently known and used by Jews all over the world. When one considers that these scriptures may only be copied by hand, and by that process have been copied countless time over the centuries, one can only wonder that not one single error has crept in to the script. This is undoubtedly indicative of the absolute care and devotion - to say nothing of the religious zeal of the scribes- that was expended and invested in this holy work.
This artists reconstruction, based on the actual archælogical finds, looks south with the Dead Sea in the background. The slightly darker areas of brickwork, such as the base of the tower and the walls leading from it to the left and enclosing the garden, represent sections actually discovered in situ. For the complete text of Josephus' description of the Essenes, you can click here  and for a glimpse of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some of which are housed in the "Shrine of the Book" in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, you can look here
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