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Re: orion date of scroll jars
I appreciate Jodi Magness's explanation of the basis for her Period
II Qumran scroll jar dating argument, as well as the appropriately
cautious tone. All that Jodi says about the lack of sufficient information
in Humbert and Chambon I agree with. In one sense there is agreement
on the status of all jars in locuses other than locus 2, namely that in
every other case there is not information that enables us independently to
verify that any of these jars were period II.
On locus 2 there is a disagreement however. This post is necessarily
long but I hope its substantive content will merit attention. In the
following, RB is Revue Biblique, DV is De Vaux, Schw is De Vaux's
1959 Schweich Lectures book (Eng.), HC is Humbert and Chambon
1994 and JM is Jodi Magness. To save space I translate directly from
French to English.
Jodi (at a disadvantage, admittedly, from not having access to HC or
her notes) asked if perhaps I was getting my locus 2 interpretation
from HC, or if this might be a case of the mouth of the jar being at
the next higher floor level (than the lowest, period I, floor level),
i.e. of some misunderstanding. Neither of these is the case.
The locus 2 information is in RB 1953: 90-94 and the description is
plain. Elevation levels are given. According to DV's description, on
the lowest floor level, which was paved, there was a jar sunk in the
ground, with the top lip of the jar flush with the paved floor, and a slab
or square covering the jar--and the slab or square made of the same material
that the floor was made of. There is no question that this is the lowest
floor level on the basis of De Vaux's information. This is clear in RB but
is made explicit in HC, 292, with the note under Locus 2, "March 28, 1955.
Two soundings to verify that there was not any lower floor."
This was the (a) lowest floor, with (b) a jar exactly like the scroll
jars buried with an open top flush with the floor, and covered with a
slab of the same paved material as the floor, (c) that De Vaux said,
in RB 1959:6-7 was built 1B.
It follows this is a jar that appears to have been installed at the
time of installation of the earliest floor. This is not based on missing
information but is based on exact information that is given. (HC also
has a photograph of the jar and its covering slab in situ.) Here
are both the RB 1953 and the HC 1994 versions of the account of the
RB 1953: "A piece especially important is the jar of Fig. 2, 4,
found intact and buried in the ground at the northwest corner of
room 2. It was empty and covered by a slab (or square) of
chalky bituminous substance which covered the paved floor. It
is identical to those which were recovered from the first cave of the
manuscripts and which were found in great number in other caves
explored in 1952 in the region of Qumran."
HC 1994 (DV's notes): "In the northwest corner, a level of
pavement destroyed in this place, a cover of bituminous stone covers
a jar buried up to the edge . . . the jar appears contemporary
with the paving".
To put it succinctly: this looks like a period I jar installation.
The remainder of the jars do not have this kind of information in
published form, as Jodi notes. Jodi seemed to agree that no assignations
of these jars at Qumran to period II were verifiable independent of
DV's own published labeling of jars as I or II. Jodi said that she
relied upon the attributions of De Vaux of jars to II in early RB reports.
This raises sensitive points on two levels. First, De Vaux's attributions
were subjective and not based on stratigraphy in perhaps most cases
(this is not conjecture but demonstrable), and the degree of circularity
that has contaminated these datings is immense. Second (and bearing
again in mind that Jodi is working without notes) there are a number
of mistakes on the level of Jodi's reporting of De Vaux's attributions.
> The footnote relevant to this passage lists all of the scroll jars
> published so far from Qumran as follows:
> "de Vaux, RB 60 (1953): Figs. 2:4, 7; 4:17; de Vaux, RB (61 (1954): Figs.
> 1:3; 5:2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9; de Vaux, RB 63 (1956): Fig. 5:14, 15.
To begin with most of these are not scroll jars. Jodi has listed
large jars. The majority of these jars were never found in caves
or in association with texts, were never called by De Vaux or
anyone else "scroll jars", and there is no basis for including
them in a list of "scroll jars". Comments on individual items:
Fig 2.4, this is the Locus 2 "scroll" jar type--Period I (as argued
Fig 2.7 (Loc 1) not a scroll jar.
Fig 4.17. not a scroll jar. De Vaux identified this as a vase.
Fig 1.3 (loc 52) not a scroll jar
Fig 5.2 (loc 28) not a scroll jar
Fig 5.3 (loc 45 [the pottery annex]) YES, this is a scroll jar ("one
of the type of the jars of the cave but very tall"--HC, 307). De
Vaux in 1954 assigned this to period II. The period II attribution was
incorporated into Lapp 196, dated as II (Lapp's Types 14.1 and 14.2).
DV's attribution to II was not from stratigraphy but rather from
thinking that the pottery annex was built in II. But in RB
1956: 541, DV wrote: "The triangular annex of the southwest, which
spread from locus 44 toward the south, had been dated to Period II.
The complete excavation and the ceramics which are in it makes its
construction in 1B." Though there is not certainty, this scroll jar
looks like Period I.
Fig 5.4 (Loc 13). YES, a scroll jar. Assigned by DV to Period II in
RB 1954 with 8 other large jars on the same page. No stratification
information given for any of these period assignments. Six of the
other eight jar period assignments later changed by DV in RB 1956 to
Period I (see above point on the pottery annex).
Fig 5.7 (loc 17), not a scroll jar
Fig 5.8 (loc 45), not a scroll jar, in any case changed by DV to 1b in RB 1956.
Fig 5.9 (loc 44), not a scroll jar, in any case changed by DV to 1b in RB 1956.
Fig 5.14 (loc 126), this is a vase, not a scroll jar.
Fig 5.15 (loc 61), this is a vase, not a scroll jar. After a dating of this item
to II termed "certain" by DV in RB 1956, DV reported in RB 1959: 248
after encountering another vase exactly like it at Ain Feshka in 1st BCE:
"this piece [the vase at Qumran] was found in the deepest layer of a
room which was utilized in both periods and it is possible it
pertains to Period 1b."
This is the total inventory of items which were cited as the basis
for the claim that "presently available evidence indicates that they [the
scroll jars] are found only in Period II contexts in Qumran".
In fact no presently available evidence indicates the existence of
any jar of this type in a Period II context in Qumran.
Presently available evidence does indicate a dating of at least one
of this type of jars, that of locus 2, to the start of Period I.
I fully agree with Jodi that further information may change this
picture, and join Jodi in lamenting the lack of publication of the
remaining information from the De Vaux excavations. (Jodi spoke
courageously and forcefully in Jerusalem on this issue, and I can
only agree.) If information were to come forth to attest a scroll
jar at the site of Qumran in the 1st century CE, then it would be
available to support the scenario of a 68 CE deposit date for the
scrolls in the caves. But such a claim does not seem to be in the
existing information, the information we have.