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orion The Diverse Cemetery of Qumran
The issue over the cemeteries needs to be clarified.
As I pointed out in my paper at the FALL ASOR MEETING (this should be in
print soon), the cemetery at Qumran had been carefully segregated into
two sections, representing different settlements:
1) The main cemetery: exclusively a male CELEBATE group (from the
2) The peripheral cemeteries lie on five lower but adjacent hillocks:
containing FAMILIES of men, women and children. (from camps of married
Essenes). Unlike those typical graves of the main cemetery (there were 4
atypical, intrusive round or rectangular ones), some of the corpses of
the peripheral hillocks were carried and buried in coffins. (showing
that they had to be carried a distance).
Both forms of society, celibate and married, existed among this
community according to the ancient sources (Josephus etc). This also can
be inferred by the separate rules found in the scrolls themselves (1QS
Why the diversity in the cemetery of Qumran?
The Temple Scroll states that every cemetery was to contain the dead
from four settlements.
"For you shall set apart places within your land (in) which you shall
bury your dead; between four cities you shall allot a place to bury
them." 1QTa XLVIII 12-14
The Qumran cemetery (as all others) by law (if the Temple Scroll should
be taken seriously) needed to include the deceased from three other
settlements. Some were likely a longer distance away than others.
Therefore the query concerning the wooden coffins may be quite simple to
- The celibates of Qumran needed no coffin for the distance they were
- Some of the married folk needed to be carried from a more distant camp
to be interred at Qumran.
I hope this is helpful,