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orion ostracon

Some observations on the new Qumran ostracon (Cross and Eshel no. 1).
	Dating.   Ada Yardeni described the script as "early Herodian."
Cross and Eshel described the script as "Late Herodian." Fred Cryer
described the script as "around 120 CE or later" and, "[i]f the conjecture
in the [his] rendering of line 1 as to the destruction of Jerusalem should
prove correct," 135 CE. James F. Strange, the archaeologist who directed
the dig, described the find as coming from hard-packed earth from which no
pottery later than period II appeared (i.e., no later than c.68 or 70 CE).
For present purposes, I conclude merely that the ostracon is Herodian,
i.e., within the limits of c.40 BCE to c.70 CE.
	Line One.   Cross-Eshel and Yardeni read the Hebrew identically.
(Cryer differs.) I agree with Cross-Eshel and Yardeni, who translate "In
year two of the [..." and  "On the second year of[...,'" respectively. I
disagree with the proposed interpretation of the line by Cross-Eshel,
though they present it merely as their preferred option, compared to
other--earlier--options. If this is an Essene document, as I think, it
should be recalled that Essenes were very particular about calendar
matters. There is no assurance, and little likelihood, in assuming that
Essenes accepted the dating system of the zealots. With the exception of
"John the Essene" (i.e., a former Essene), Essenes did not join the zealot
fight. Even if they received some revolt coins, they would not necessarily
have used the zealot dating system on their documents. And it is not
certain Essenes were still at Qumran in 68 CE, the Cross-Eshel prefered
date. As already suggested in the 1950s, the Qumran Essenes may have fled
(to east of the Jordan) before then. In 68, according to Josephus, zealots
were looting Judaea. Possibly, zealots briefly occupied Qumran and left the
revolt coins.
	In any case, line one is not a typical dating formula, as it lacks
the day and month before the year.  As I suggested before, and as now
appears even more likely with Yardeni's proposed dating, the year two
refers to the second year of the Essene initiation process, concerning the
giving of property to the community, as detailed in Serek hayahad (and as
reflected in Josephus).
	Disputed letters.   Reasonable people may differ on some of the
letters in this ostracon. In my view this text is an Essene conveyance of
property with or without the word "yahad" in line 8, because there are
other connections to serek hayahad, and, of course, to Qumran. Ada
Yardeni's reading does not effectively exclude yahad, though it offers an
alternative. Her alternative, as noted by Cross-Eshel in Qadmoniot, is a
collocation otherwise unknown. It includes a medial nun in (proposed) final
position, which Yardeni admits is "not a common phenomenon in contemporary
	Yardeni described the scribe as "unskilled." Perhaps we can all
agree on that. I have not seen the ostracon itself. I have looked at
various photos. We should recall that there are many photographic
techniques represented, and they differently depict the relation of ink to
surface flaws, flaws which may be even more crucial on the broken edge of
line 8. Cross and Eshel, though they did not present this evidence in IEJ,
have, since then, made a good case for the n-shaped het possibility. As
noted before, 4QQohelet provides an example of one scribe using a range of
het shapes (Cf. also Muraba'at; the Masada examples are mostly on brief
inscriptions.). Yardeni suggests aleph. It is a reasonable suggestion, but
to write, as Yardeni does, that it is "obviously an alef, which apparently
begins a new word" is not certain. In her own drawing (p. 235) of lines 7
and 8 there are, by her count, three or four alephs.  Yet these letters are
*not* alike. (One aleph Yardeni regards as uncertain--another indication
that this scribe's alephs are not necessarily obvious.) I'll spare orion
readers a detailed description of each shape, unless that becomes
necessary. What this shows--and there are other examples--is that this
"unskilled scribe," writing a draft on pottery, did not write letter forms
with much consistency, despite claims to the contrary. Furthermore, anyone
who takes the time to compare Yardeni's drawing on p.235 with her drawing
(from a different photo) on p. 237 will see differences in her own
representation of letters. This is not a criticism of her, but a reminder
of how tenuous some letter-description assertions can be. The
antepenultimate letter in line 8, I do not deny, is difficult to decide. My
view of the photo on p. 235 does suggest some sort of line or edge from the
top to bottom left.  But, so far, I consider that letter
questionable--meaning there is more than one possibility. Excluding letter
possibilities on this ostracon is not always easy.
	I have some other observations, but this post is already long. I
consider the ostracon an Essene draft deed of conveyance. I will be
interested to read the views of other orion participants.
Stephen Goranson
Duke University