[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
orion BAR Article
I assume most of the list has read "The Enigma of Qumran" in the
January/February BAR. I wanted to express some thoughts about the article and
see what others had to say on a few subjects.
In the BAR article Patrich suggests that Qumran has little in common with
desert fortresses and is much more like a fortified farm. Hirschfeld points
out that the water capacity of cisterns and what are described as mikva'ot at
Qumran is something like 1,200 cubic meters while Magness says that the water
capacity of cisterns [alone] in other desert fortresses was about 4,000 cubic
meters. Later Magness suggests that Qumran might not have been settled until
after 100 B.C.E.
Would water in mikva'ot be used for purposes other than ritual bathing? I
assume, without knowing, that this water would not be used for drinking or
cooking? I do not know whether it might be used for irrigation after ritual
bathing? In any event, why would one count the cubic meters in both the
cisterns and the mikva'ot and compare that total to the cubic meters in just
cisterns at forts? Wouldn't the proper comparison be cisterns to cisterns?
Without counting the mikv'ot, I assume the total cubic meters of water stored
in cisterns at Qumran would be less than 600 cubic meters - far less than the
water stored at desert fortresses.
Does this suggest that Qumran was not a fortress or does it suggest that
Qumran was not in the desert - or both? Dr. Numan Shehadeh of the Geography
Department of The University of Jordon in an article entitled "The Climate of
Jordon in the Past and Present" wrote that: "In the beginning of the first
century BC [i.e., the same time that Magness speculates that Qumran was
settled], rainfall improved and the first two centuries of the Christian era
were moist; rainfall was probably somewhat greater than the present rainfall.
This is clearly indicated by the prosperity of Jerash between 130-180 AD and
by several legends reported by al-Mas'udi in 'Muruj al dhaheb' of running
waters and numerous oases in the Syrian desert of that time." In other words,
one reason for an occupation of Qumran at about 100 BCE was [may have been]
that it was much easier to live there in about 100 BCE than it had been
previously and there was no particular need for the big cisterns that were
found at desert fortresses. Whoever lived there could afford to have several
baths because there was water available for that purpose and did not
necessarily need a political or religious reason for leaving Jerusalem and
moving to Qumran. Doesn't that make more sense than talking about Qumran as
if it were in the desert in the period 100 BCE to 68 or 70 CE? Wouldn't the
availability of plenty of water explain why the cistern numbered 49 could have
gone out of use after the 31 B.C.E. earthquake and Qumran could still be
operated without much interuption? Moreover, Magness' observations that it
does not rain very often but that the infrequent rainfalls were trapped behind
a damn at the bottom of the second waterfall must be taken with a grain of
Dead Sea salt - because it probably did rain much more frequently than it does
One implication of all of this is that Qumran was not such a rough place to
live and the folks living there were not necessarily living a hard life.
Perhaps it had much more in common with Jericho than Jerusalem?