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orion Hirschfeld's Excavations
SG wrote: "If Qumran and En Gedi were not inaccessible to one another - at
least not entirely - the questions remain: how easily accessible, by what
roads, and how much would access by water be a factor."
In the Jan 98 BAR artilce Shanks asked: "Was Qumran an isolated site?"
Hirschfeld responded: "It was a busy place on a main thoroughfare from
Jerusalem and Jericho to Ein Gedi and to other settlements of Jews around the
Dead Sea. Qumran was a crossroad. . . . [T]here are several sites from the
late Second Temple period showing that the water level was only a little bit
higher than it is today. These settlements are along the patrol road of the
army today. This road, right down to Ein Gedi, was open and not covered by
the sea. Qumran was a busy place."
On the other hand, Magness, who SG has previously described with great praise
for her archeological work, said: "At the time that Qumran was inhabited, in
the first century B.C.E. through the first century C.E. it was a very isolated
Eshel said: "At that 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 route. Only people who wanted to reach Qumran would go that route."
None of these views supports the view that Qumran and En Gedi were
inaccessible to one another nor would any of them prevent Ein Gedi wine-jar
fragments from being found a Qumran any more than it would prevent storage
jars made in Jericho from being found at Qumran.
It seems to me to be a given that whichever view is correct, there had to be
much more fresh water available for Jews (or anyone else) living along the
west coast of the Dead Sea in the period 100 B.C.E. to 68 C.E. than there is
today. This circumstance would be consistent with Hirschfeld's view that
Qumran greatest physical expansion was during the Herodian period and that
most of what we call the Qumran site was not constructed until sometime after
37 B.C.E. even if the occupation began about 100 B.C.E. as suggested by
Magness. Those who argue that Pliny's discussion of the destruction of Ein
Gedi referred to its distruction in 40 B.C.E. should not at the same time be
arguing that the greater size of Qumran argues in its favor as the place of
the Essenes mentioned by Pliny and argues against Hirschfeld's site because,
according to Hirschfled, the Qumran site was not much more than the small
square dating originally from the iron age until it was substantially expanded
after 37 B.C.E. Can you logically have it both ways, i.e., Pliny's source was
talking about the 40 B.C.E. destruction of Ein Gedi and also talking about the
post 37 B.C.E. expanded site at Qumran? Perhaps so, but what of the reference
in Pliny to the destruction of Jerusalem?
Isn't it reasonable to assume that in this geographic area (where Herod the
Great spent so much time building palaces and aqueducts, meeting with
Cleopatra, killing his family and eventually dying) no sect would be expanding
its site (fort, farm, or monestary) without Herod's, at least implicit,
Finally, we are told by SG that "Pliny was largely a compiler. It was not his
usual practice to sytematically 'update' his sources, but to gather and report
them. So the question is the geographic knowledge of his source, M. Agrippa .
. . a military man interested in forts . . . ." Are we then asked to believe
that M. Agrippa - this powerful military man interested in forts - would be
relating information to Pliny about the purification practices of the Essenes
- or is it more likely that he was talking about a physical characteristic of
the Dead Sea, i.e., if the wind blows the wrong way it stinks. Isn't it more
likely that a translation tied to the former is suspect?