From a book review of Joan E. Taylor's The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea:
The Essenes and the Qumran Settlement By Jodi Magness
Qumran was occupied from around 100 BCE to 68 CE by members of a Jewish sect who deposited the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves surrounding the site. The scrolls represent a collection of Jewish religious works including copies of books of the Hebrew Bible, dating mostly to the second and first centuries BCE...Members of this sect apparently refused to participate in the sacrifices offered in the Jerusalem temple, which they considered polluted by the current priesthood. They therefore withdrew, constituting their own community as the biblical desert camp.
In recent years, some scholars have identified Qumran not as a sectarian settlement but as a villa, manor house, fort, commercial entrêpot, or pottery manufacturing center. All of these highly publicized alternative theories assume there is no connection between the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Qumran settlement — an assumption contradicted by the location of some of the scroll caves in the plateau on which the settlement sits, and by the discovery of the same types of pottery (including types peculiar to Qumran) at the site and in the scroll caves.
Even among scholars who identify Qumran as a sectarian settlement, however, there remain disagreements about whether its inhabitants were Essenes. These disagreements stem from difficulties in understanding and reconciling our three main sources of information: 1) sectarian scrolls (works composed by members of this sect); 2) archaeological remains at Qumran; and 3) descriptions of the Essenes provided by ancient authors. These sources provide different — albeit complementary or overlapping — types of information, and each has limitations.