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Re: orion The Diverse Cemetery of Qumran

According to Ian Werrett:
> On 5/26/98 S. Pfann wrote:
> >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:
> >that they had to be carried a distance).

Ian Werrett replied
> I apologize in advance for my ignorance if I have missed part of this
> conversation but I am confused.
> How are you able to make these generalizations about the cemetery when only
> 45 (36 by de Vaux and 9 by Steckoll) out of some 1100 or so graves have been
> excavated?

The first 20 of de Vaux's cemetery excavations did not note the gender of the
remains, according to Humbert's publication of de Vaux's notes. Later, perhaps
using a photgraph, de Vaux identified one skeleton as female. 

None of the excavated graves contained a family group. There were two occasions
of two men being buried together; one of a woman with an infant, and one of a
woman and child, I believe. (My notes are in my office; I write this at home
after a day at the dentist.)

As far as I was aware, in reading de Vaux's notes, there was no mention of any
coffins. At most, some graves appeared to have some substance that might have
been wood dust. I checked this after Vermes spoke at the 50th anniversary
Conference last Summer in Jerusalem.

My own reading of the notes (Humbert, 1997) indicates that there is less
information about the cemetery than has previously been thought.
To be explicit, de Vaux's later statements about the gender of the skeletons in
the cemetery are not based on his notes, as published by Humbert. Thus,
statements in a variety of summaries about Qumran and the community associated
with Qumran, that are based on de Vaux's assessment of gender of skeletons, have
little basis in the data available to me last fall, when I checked into this.

> I appreciate your use of DSS material to bolster your hypothesis, (1QTa
> XLVIII 12-14), however, I am interested to know if you are also utilizing
> additional archaeological information which I am unaware of.

So would I. The only possibility that occurs to me is that de Vaux's photos of
the skeletons in situ survived, and that some forensic anthropologist has been
bold enough to determine gender from comparative measurements based on
photographs of intact skeletons. However, many of the skeletons were not intact;
burials were sometimes interments of bones, or reburials, judging from the
positions of the bones. 

The better information about women at Qumran will come from materials such as
spindles and/or spindle whorls at the main Qumran site, as well as reanalysis of
the sectarian texts. The celibacy model seems to be based on Josephus plus the
Laura monasteries that came later, and otherwise seems to depend on de Vaux's
developing projection onto the cemetery data. 

Ground penetrating radar is in its infancy; perhaps in ten years we will be able
to assess the dimensions of the skeletons in the cemetery at Qumran, and there
actually will be something we can say about a community that lived there (or, as
one published hypothesis has it, the regiment that was buried there, all on one

> Ian Werrett
> MA Candidate
> Trinity Western University

Sigrid Peterson   University of Pennsylvania   petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu