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orion Fwd: BAR article
[ Part 2: "Included Message" ]
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 1998 22:36:01 EST
From: Dunnlaw <Dunnlaw@aol.com>
Subject: BAR article
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. Let me comment in no
You write: "The location [of Q] should indicate that the initial building of
the site was not for farming purposes, though naturally when built and a water
system constructed it would not be too hard to adapt it to other uses. The
fact remains that the initial use is unexplained as simply a fortified farm."
There is a lot here to discuss. What do you mean by "the site"? What do you
mean by "a water system"? I read the BAR article to say that in 1993, during
Operation Scroll, Israel Antiquities Authority director Amir Drori told Hanan
Eshel that the IAA found a wall going along the eastern side of what is now
described as a square structure. De Vaux did not record the existence of this
wall that demonstrates that the original structure was a square with the tower
at (i.e., making up) the nortwest corner of the original square structure.
The authors believe that most of the buildings were added onto this original
square with tower. Part of the area within the original square is called Room
4. Supposedly, Yitzchak Magen excavated and found an Iron Age wall as part of
Room 4. Then the remark is made: "If you go down below de Vaux's excavation,
you will find more and more Iron Age features." I do not know if this is
intended to suggest that the square area with tower is Iron Age.
All of this is somewhat confusing to me. Iron Age, as I understand it, begins
about 1500 BCE. I seem to recall Golb saying that the original site (the
square with tower?) dates to about 800 BCE. In any event, inside the original
square there are parts of what is now called the water system and part of what
is being called mikva'ot. Are we to understand that mikva'ot were constructed
in the Iron Age? Is the alternative that this part of the water system (i.e.,
the part inside the original square) was constructed after the original square
was constructed. Since the square area is much smaller than the entire site,
I would assume the original water storage system would be smaller than the
final water system. Of course, good, solid answers to these questions carry
implications for those who say that archeology supports the sect theory.
So how much water was in the general area around Qumran when the original
square was constructed - whenever that was. The article I previously referred
to says that "[c]onditions during the period between 2500-1000 BC were drier
than present conditions are. The onset of this dry period can tentatively be
dated at 2100 BC and maximum aridity might have been achieved between
1800-1300 BC." Certainly, part of this arid period was during the Iron Age.
The article continues saying that "[n]umerous towns in Palestine and Jordon
were abandoned in the period between 2100-1800 BC . . . . From 1000 BC to
900 BC rainfall in Jordon and Palestine was roughly equivalent to rainfall in
the first half of this century." From these statements I would conclude that
at the time of the construction of the original square with tower (what seems
to me to have been a small fort) the place was very dry and needed a water
system - but not a big system because the "site" (the square with tower) was
small compared to the later and larger site.
In the BAR article, Hirschfeld sees two phases of construction: (1) the
original square building with tower, and (2) the additions. He believes these
additions were added "[p]robably during the Herodian period which was when
Qumran flourished." I take it then that most of what we call the Qumran site
was not constructed until sometime after 37 BCE even if the occupation began
about 100 BCE as suggested by Maness. I assume this means that much of the
water system was added onto whatever was already present - including "new"
cisterns and mikva'ot.
During this time period (i.e., 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. I am not at all sure what impact
this situation would have on the availability of water at Qumran. Assume, for
example, that the level of the Dead Sea is 70 meters higher than today. What
does this do to the availability of subsurface water and to the water table?
Were there perhaps springs or well sites in the area around Qumran that could
have provided another source of water? Supposedly, there "numerous oases in
the Syrian desert at that time and "[m]uch archaeological evidence dating from
that period, including old Roman bridges and ruined piers on present dry
wadis, and many well heads and houses indicating springs, which do not exist
today, support the claims of al-Mas'udi."
The experts in the BAR article seem to disagree on the issue of "water".
Eshel says that at the time the Dead Sea reached the cliffs. If you wanted to
travel south along the Dead Sea you had to take a boat. Qumran was on a dead-
end. Magness seems to agree. Hirschfeld says that there was a "busy
thoroughfare from Jerusalem and Jericho to Ein Gedi" and describes Qumran as a
crossroad and a busy place. He says that there are several sites from the
late Second Temple period showing that the water level was only a little bit
higher than it is today. Certainly, there is no agreement on this subject of
water or water level and what Hirschfeld contends has many possible
implications about those who lived at Qumran.
Thanks again for responding.