[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
SV: SV: orion Qumran habitation dates
Robert Leonard comments that the quantity of coins--110 from the
procurators, 83 from Agrippa I--is too many to account for from 60's CE
people alone and justifies a conclusion of continuous 1st CE habitation
at Qumran. I appreciate the comment and the point (and maybe its
right), but how secure is this point and this argument? On the one
hand, might this coin distribution be accounted for by rehabitation
starting at the time of Agrippa I (and not earlier)? On the other hand,
can it be excluded that these coins came from 60's CE people using
Agrippa I coins and procurator coins along with contemporary Nero-era
and Jewish Revolt coins? Is there comparative data to back up the
statement of "too many"?
In response to Stephen Goranson,
(a) the positive evidence for habitation at 60's CE echoes De Vaux and
is based on a destruction which ends a sequence of coins of large
quantities at the time of the First Revolt (60's CE), and then the coins
practically quit altogether after this point. The drop in the coins is
the indicator that a habitation ended. Lots of Herodian lamps (which is
a well-defined and well-dated artifact--the only artifact type at Qumran
I know of for which there is well-defined typological dating, i.e.
narrow start and end dates for the types) also confirm 1st CE habitation
at Qumran. The date of deposit of a hoard says someone was on the site
c. 8 BCE. And the large amount of Alexander Jannaeus coins plus some
from earlier than Jannaeus, as well as pre-Herodian "hellenistic" lamp
types seem minimally to confirm some habitation c. first half of the 1st
BCE. The most interesting gap in knowledge of habitation is the period
after the Roman arrival in Palestine, i.e. 63 BCE to late 1st BCE.
(b) On whether the deposit of the scrolls in Cave 4 happened at a time
when the site was inhabited or uninhabited, until and unless a real
answer can be known for the purpose of the deposit (as distinguished
from some very good scenarios), this seems best left unanswered too.
(c) Your question about my language of the scrolls being "dumped" on the
floor of Cave 4 and consistency with the theory that the scrolls were
brought from Jerusalem (or from Jericho or wherever) for safekeeping is
an interesting one. There were no quantities of jar remains in Cave 4
as were found in the outlying caves--none of the scrolls in the caves in
immediate proximity to Qumran had scroll jar remains as the outlying
caves did--plus there is the vast quantity of the texts in Cave 4 that
is out of all proportion to any of the other caves. These are details
that require explanation in any scenario proposed. The best I have
heard came from Ian Hutchesson, who suggested an interruption of the
deposit process. The purpose was to get all the scrolls into the
outlying caves safely in jars. For whatever reason--threat, laziness,
lack of jars, whatever--the process was interrupted and the remaining
3/4 of the texts were simply stashed in nearby Cave 4, minus jars, i.e.
the intended process was never completed. Who knows whether this is the
right explanation--but its an interesting one.
> What about pottery dating, for example?
I don't think any existing pottery type at Qumran is going to shed light
on habitation in individual decades or quarter centuries in the
particular periods of interest. Unless start and stop dates in the
region are known for particular types (which cannot automatically be
equated with attested dates versus lack of attested dates, unless there
is a lot of data, such as in the case of some of the lamp types), it is
not fruitful to try to sharpshoot dates on these things to greater
precision than this information is capable of delivering.
>And aren't the many dishes
>covered by earthquake debris an indication of habitation just before the 31
"Before" (undated), yes. "Just before", meaning there were people at
the site the week the earthquake hit--I don't see how any conclusion of
this sort can be justified on the basis of existing information. If you
found remains of uneaten food in some of the dishes--that might change
the picture. But nothing of this nature was reported to be the case.
Those dishes could have been sitting stacked like that at an abandoned
site when the earthquake happened--what in the existing information is
capable of ruling this out?
>I am, honestly, surprised that your post only
>mentioned coins--though, to try to keep things clear, you didn't
>necessarily say that only coins matter.
> You have, obviously, read about other types of dating evidence than
>coins. E.g., what about radiocarbon dating of the date palm wood beam, used
>in (re)building Qumran? (I admit, I don't have that recalibrated date at
>hand at the moment.) What about, e.g., paleography of ostraca found at
The focus on coins is because this is the best means of getting date
information and the other means don't deliver precision. Its strictly
utilitarian. Dated economic texts and dendro on tree rings are probably
the strongest of all means on earth for ancient dating, but no dated
economic texts turned up at Qumran and there is no feasible application
at present of dendro to Qumran.
The Herodian lamps as discussed in several studies have a good data base
and narrow datings so are useful. The radiocarbon date on the palm wood
beam confirms Second Temple period building activity at Qumran and
little more than that because radiocarbon dating can't deliver
precisions of quarter-centuries or even, except in unusual cases,
half-centuries. Palaeographic dating of ostraca has more precision
claimed for it than is justified (in my opinion) so there is the same
problem of asking more precision than the method can deliver. Many of
these methods do well in confirming Second Temple period. But that is
the information they are delivering, and to press beyond that is the
>The graves (do you date them to Alexander or to 60s CE times)?
I don't know. The only way I know to get at that information would be
for some serious radiocarbon dating to be done on both the human remains
and items associated with the remains. No prospects of this being
likely in the near future, though.