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The place is dry.

In a message from Steve Abramowitz (I think) dated 96-09-19 it is stated: "I
was at Q. and the place is as dry and remote as it could possibly be.  Where
did they get their food?  Where did they get their water?  I saw no living
plants there.  Not a tree, not a shrub, notiing.  Where did they get the food
for their famous community meals?"

Perhaps part of the answer to these questions begin to surface in my post of
September 15th.  Several articles cited in my post indicate that rainfall
during the so-called Roman period seems to have been substantially different
than today.  According to N. Shehadeh of the Georgraphy Department of the
University of Jordon, "[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."  Whatever
the situation was, it appears that the moisture was sufficient to raise the
level of the Dead Sea from 65 to 70 meters higher than it is today.  Folks, I
am not a hydrologist, but that is a lot of water.  Others suggest many
agricultural settlements along the west coast of the Dead Sea at the time.  

In my imagination or minds eye, I see the area as looking much more like the
area around the present day Galilee.  Now, if that is true, think of the
implications.  This spot is not so very remote.  In fact, its not a bad place
at all to hang out.  The shore of the Dead Sea is much closer.  The whole
mental picture is different.  This is part of the reason that the idea of
this being a fort during this is period of time is less persuasive.  What a
waste for a fort!  Cool caves nearby, nice water source right behind you,
large water storage facilities, easy travel up and down the lake to places
like En Gedi.  If Essens were there, it is not like they have been banished
to some God forsaken hole in the ground.  This picutre makes it easier to
understand a more diverse environment (including literature), a larger
graveyard (implying more people) etc.

As for the Romans neading a reason to kill large groups of people, I have
never noticed in my reading about Romans that it ever bothered them much to
kill people for the slighest of reasons.