[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: orion Jars and 1a & 1b dates

According to Dunnlaw:
> Sigrid Peterson observes that "the significance of the 9/8 bce gap in
> habitation goes past me, . . . ." 

  Thanks for your long and specific response. It is worth repeating, but what I
am about to say is going to be long, and not responsive to what you wrote, so I 
am going to delete the rest of your post, and maybe get back to it another time..

  What I was trying to convey, without actually saying so, is that I have serious
methodological reservations about what I would characterize as The Search for
Narrative. That means that to me, one narrative statement about Qumran is as
useful as the next. For many of those working in the field, the last ten years or
so has disproved the narrative that had been used as a working hypothesis,
based on the "laura" monastery model which tied the caves to the Central Complex,
and matched, more or less, the ethnographies of the Essenes.

  We have a lot of trouble on Orion in doing something I try to teach my classes
in Religious Studies to do, and that is to take the point of view of the
other--as you did so well, Mark. I can see that from another perspective it is
very much time to do narrative again, to write a new history of Qumran, to look
over all the pieces and fit them together again, and to defend the new improved
narrative. If I were teaching students about the DSS, I would like to have a
narrative in mind. They would very much like find at the end of the course that
all this we were looking at was actually leading somewhere they could make sense
of. Along the way, I would simply demonstrate the critical thinking that goes
along with arriving at a narrative. It would be a tidy package, based on
reasonable methods in archeology that establish methods for dating. These methods
include paleography, C14 dating, stratigraphy, and pottery series from sealed
locations. With this skeleton of sequential data established, one would attach
information from other sources, such as the one universal 1st c. CE fact. The
Temple was destroyed in 70 CE on the Tenth of Av, according to Josephus. And
other information would be matched up with other points in the framework. Then we
would look at literary information, and consider the points of correspondence, if
any. THEN we could look at the scrolls found at the site, and consider whether
they were related to the framework--although we've used writing styles and C14
already, so that we've presupposed that they are related.

  This is a convention in archeology; everything found at a site gets interpreted
relative to the site, until and unless it can be shown that it should be
detached. Interpreting as you go along is part of the "clinical" work of
archaeology, so that you have a feel for what comes next, and in what direction
you should dig.  To ask an archaeologist to refrain from narrative is like asking
a psychologist not to make any clinical determinations about where a client is,
or asking a doctor to make treatment decisions without reference to any other
patient with a similar diagnosis that s/he has treated before. 

  I'm not an archaeologist; I've been trained, instead, in the science and
practice of psychology, in statistical methodology which sees statisticians as
the guardians of the scientific method, and in the methodologies of religious
studies derived from (ancient, culturally different) texts. I care passionately
about methodology; I want to be sure we have the best tools to work from. In this
perspective, narrative is a distant goal we may never reach, unless we develop
the tools to get us to the point we can make secure narrative statements.

  Such tools would include a tabulation of the scrolls together with their
paleographical dating, an examination of all the pottery at Qumran and its
correlation with other sites, Mireille Bolle's examination of the woven materials
found in close association with scrolls in caves 1 and 11, Emanuel Tov's
examination of "Qumran practice" -- scribal markings which are specific to a
group of more than a hundred scrolls, critical analysis of the actual information
available from the cemetery in comparison with similar cemeteries, and similar

  I haven't included C14 analyses in the above list. With both the choice of
graves to exhume, and of scrolls to date using C14, we don't have available an
adequate sample. This means that we cannot generalize from the opened graves, or
the C14 tests of individual scrolls, to all of the graves, or to all of the
scrolls. If and only if the scrolls for testing are chosen in a random manner, to
the point that we have 85 tested scrolls, we will have good data about all the
scrolls. If instead C14 testing is used to solve specific problems that concern
individual careers, we will eventually have to have 850 scrolls (or whatever the
total) tested, in order to know what we can say about all the scrolls. That is,
C14 testing of 85 scrolls chosen at random would tell us a great deal about the
whole collection. That individuals have had 85 scrolls tested as they looked at
specific research questions, however well conceived the questions, will not tell
us anything about the scroll collection as whole. We won't be able to generalize
from 85 non-random C14 tests. 

  I am more willing to concede that the cemetery data is nearly random; if the
bones existed and were analyzed by Patricia Smith's lab, and if 150 more graves
were dug in a randomly selected pattern, we would be able to speak with
confidence about the composition of the community of those who used the cemetery.
It would take an extraordinary international and Israeli and Palestinian effort
of cooperation to accomplish. 

  So that is some of the information that would provide a methodologically sound
framework upon which to build. It is the kind of work that doesn't make
best-selling books, and lots of news headlines. While there's DSS general glamour
to be shared, it is even less glamorous than editing a scroll.

  I was hoping to come to a point where I could close by calling for individuals
to understand what drives perspectives in some of the fields involved in DSS
research. I didn't, but I'm at 100 lines, and I'll close here.

  Sigrid Peterson   UPenn   petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu