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orion: Qumran scrolls jars Period I
S. Goranson wrote:
> Jodi Magness, who is expert concerning the relevant pottery and
> archaeology, has described the "scroll jars" differently than some recent
> posts. The abstract to her excellent 1996 SBL/ASOR presentation may be read
> in the ASOR newsletter, Summer 1996, or at
> http://scholar.cc.emory.edu/scripts/ASOR/Program/Abstracts96.html#S154 It
> reads, in part: "It also turns out that scroll jars are not attested at
> Qumran in any pre-31 B.C.E. contexts. In fact, the presently available
> evidence indicates that they are found only in Period II contexts at
> Qumran, though excavation photographs and parallels from Herodian Jericho
> suggest that they may have appeared during the reign of Herod the Great."
I have much respect for the energy and diligence of Jodi Magness but
on this point I believe this claim is problematic on two counts.
First, because most of these jars reported found at Qumran cannot
be specified as to periods on the information available in De Vaux's
published reports, and therefore it is a gratuitous statement to claim
none are attested pre-31 BCE.
The second problem is more direct: the statement appears incorrect
in terms of one jar for which there is sufficient information to make an
argument for specific date. That is the first jar of this kind De Vaux
found, in Locus 2. It is sunk in the lowest floor level. The lowest floor
level went in with the original construction of the site. This is
prima facie a Period I context jar. De Vaux called it 1st century
CE, and I assume J. Magness is following De Vaux in this reasoning,
because some 1st CE coins were found on top, around, and even within
this jar. But the coins are dating the latest people to use the
floor and the jar. They are not dating the floor and the jar. Since
we have a good idea when the floor is actually dated--when Qumran was
built at the start of I--this gives a good idea as to the dating of
the jar which was installed in that floor. I have checked my reasoning
with John Strange, the veteran archaeologist of Jordanian sites here at
Copenhagen (no relation to James Strange, the discoverer of the
ostracon). Strange not only stated that my reasoning was correct, but
noticed one or two other details from De Vaux's description which
he found significant in supporting the Period I dating. He offered
the use of his name in support of the Period I argument.
Since the other jars--I have identified perhaps a half dozen in De
Vaux's notes--of this kind are of uncertain datings viewed
individually, but are all sunk in floors in corners of rooms in the
same pattern--I think these jars must all be viewed as Period I
unless there is a convincing argument from a specific locus for a
> In "The Community at Qumran in Light of Its Pottery" (Annals of
> NYAcademy of Sciences, vol.722 , p.41, 1994 conference) Magness wrote, in
> part: "The presence of 'scroll jars' at the site of Qumran indicates that
> they probably also served as containers for materials other than
> scrolls...However, the elongated, cylindrical form of the body suggests to
> me that these jars were originally designed to hold scrolls....Aside from
> the site and caves at Qumran, the only two published examples of "scroll
> jars" known to me come from New Testament Jericho...and Quailba near Abila
> (see de Vaux 1973: 54-55, footnote 1). The lids associated with the "scroll
> jars"....are also rare at other sites in Judea..."
> The one jar found in a salvage dig in tombs near Abila, northern
> Jordan were mentioned in de Vaux, Arch. & DSS (as above), Ann.Dept. Antiq.
> Jordan 4-5 (1960) 116 (cf. pl V.1), and RevBib 67 (1960) 229. But,
> apparently, neither a photograph nor drawing of that jar has been published.
> Stephen Goranson email@example.com