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Qumran pottery sherd
The following article appeared last Friday.
Jerusalem Post, Fri. Feb. 23, 1996
Qumran yields ancient text
The first ancient writing to be found at Qumran in 40 years - a pottery
sherd inscribed with 16 lines of Hebrew - was uncovered at the site recently.
The inscription, still in the process of decipherment and only
partially intact, apparently lists food supplies sent to Qumran from Jericho.
This is the first text not of a religious nature ever uncovered
at Qumran, near the Dead Sea, where between 1947 and 1956 more than 800
parchment and papyrus scrolls were found in caves. It is also the first
Qumran text found on a pottery sherd.
The discovery was made by a team of American volunteers working
at the site two weeks ago under the direction of Prof. James Strange of
the University of Southern Florida. "I was clearing some earth with a
trowel when I suddenly heard a clink," said Joseph Caulfield, 39, a
carpenter from the state of Washington. "I picked up the sherd and after
a second or two I saw that there were definitely letters on it. It had
been lying only an inch or two below the surface."
The sherd is plainly not part of the corpus of writing known as
the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of religious texts hidden in 11 caves
around the ruins of Qumran almost 2,000 years ago. However, it is the
first Qumran inscription that may be connected to the daily life of the
people who dwelt there. The absence hitherto of such mundane documents
has puzzled scholars and led some to argue that Qumran was a military
outpost and not the monastery-like religious commune it is generally
believed to be.
The sherd was not found in one of the caves, but a few dozen
meters south of the Qumran compound, which is generally regarded as a
"motherhouse" for the Dead Sea sect. The sherd lay on the exterior side
of a stone wall girding the compound. Found near it were some sherds from
the First Temple period including the handle of a storage jar.