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Golb's theory and forts

Here are a few thoughts about the "fort" theory that may or may not be

Golb states that: "Qumran itself, according to de Vaux and his colleagues,
had originally been built as an Israelite fortress in the seventh or eighth
century B.C.  Apparently, the site had afterward been abandoned until around
the start of the second century B.C., when the ancient Israelite foundations
were used to construct a relatively modest group of buildings."  [Q:  Does
Israelite fortress mean northern kingdom or is the term more generic?]

Later Golb states: "Elsewhere in the English work, de Vaux added the
observation that 'We should bear in mind that particularly during the second
iron age and the Roman period the west bank of the Dead Sea was more thickly
populated than we have been accustomed to imagine.'  Indeed, in the late
1960s, explorations of the area between Khirbet Qumran  and En Gedi by the
archaelogist Pesah Bar-Adon had revealed many Second Iron Age settlements
supported by agriculture, thus destroying de Vaux's original idea that the
Khirbet Sumaran site alone was capable of being compared with the one
described in Pliny."

In these passages, at least three periods are mentioned:

1.  Second Iron Age (a somewhat vague term) when the west bank of the Dead
Sea was more thickly populated with agricultural settlements;

2.  Seventh or Eighth Century B.C., when a small Israelite fort was at the
site; and

3.  Roman period, when the west bank of the Dead Sea was again (?) more
thickly populated.

I assume that the Iron Age is roughly 1200 - 580 BCE.  I would understand the
the Second Iron Age begins about the 10th - 9th century.  During this time
the states of Judah and Israel rise under Solomon.  The Canaanites, Edomites,
Moabites and Amonites are, at least economically, under the influence of
Jerusalem.  Also during this period the Assyrians begin to rise to be the
dominate political and military force in the region.  By the 8th - 7th
century (still in the second iron age), Assyria is dominant in the region and
the northern state of Israel is occupied by Sargon in about 722 BCE and
Jerusalem is saked by Sennacherib in 701 BCE.

Therefore, I would suppose that in about the 8th or 7th century BCE there
were political, economic and religious factors present that would suggest
locating a fort at about Qumran.  That is, there is a "central" government
that is sufficiently powerful to support a regular military "branch" and a
somewhat natural "frontier" and approaches to be guarded.  I would expect to
find a number of similar forts at places like En Hatzeva, Qitmit, Massada, En
Gedi and so forth.

So, what was the level of the Dead Sea vis a vis this small  8th - 7th
century fort and, in addition, what was the likelihood that the west bank of
the Dead Sea was supporting a large agricultural population at the time the
fort was occupied?  According to an article by N. Shehadeh of the Geography
Department of the University of Jordan entitled, "The Climate of Jordan in
the Past and Present,"  from "1000 BC to 900 BC rainfall in Jordon and
Palestine was roughly equivalent to rainfall in the first half of this
century."  A similar conclusion is offered in "The Holocene climatic record
of the salt caves of Mount Sedom, Israel" by A. Frumkin, M. Magarits, I.
Carmi and I. Zak (1991) where they find that remains in several salt caves
suggest that in the period 3000 - 2000 BP the Dead Sea's level was
approximately - 395 to - 400 m. below M.S.L., or roughly where it is today, I
think.  I would suppose that if the rainfall and lake level were roughly what
they are today, it is likely that an 8th - 7th century small fort at Qumran
was somewhat remote from the shoreline and was not in a very agricultural
area.  It seems more likely that it was an outpost or lookout and not much of
a fort.

On the other hand, the rainfall and the Dead Sea level during the so-called
Roman period seems to have been substantially different than today.  Accoding
to Shehadeh, "[i]n the beginning of the first century BC, rainfall improved
and the first two centuries of the Christian era were moist; rainfall was
probably somewhat greater than the present rainfall."  The other authors
suggest a Dead Sea level during this period at - 330 m. or roughly 65 -70
meters higher than today's level.  I do not have a topographic map of the
Dead Sea area in order to plot a shore line at -330 m, but I assume from
recollection that such a shoreline would put the lake much closer to Qumran.
 Moreover, the increased rainfall would make it more likely that during the
Roman period the site was in a more agricultural area that could support a
larger occupation.  The situation would be much different that an 8th - 7th
century outpost.  Because the lake level was higher, transportation up and
down the lake would be easier from the site itself.  I would assume more
commerce, i.e. people coming and going.  In short, the place was more
economically viable and less likely to be "wasted" only to support a military

These are just my thoughts offered for what they may be worth.

Mark Dunn