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Re: orion Natural resources and imports at Qumran
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Steven Pfann and Christophe Batsch are rightly pointing to one of the sorer
points in the material-historical study of the Dead Sea texts, namely the
severe limits on our knowledge of the actual use of the area and
exploitation of its resources in antiquity. Quite extensive claims have,
for example, been made by Alan Crown as to the viability of the site as an
economic concern, but also both the "hellenistic villa" and "villa rustica"
ideas imply that the site was capable of a not-inconsiderable production of
balsam, perfume, asfalt, and other items. Claims have also been made as to
the Ein Feshka site as sufficiently well watered for local agriculture to
have supplied Qumran (Campbell) with produce. But I really know of no
large-scale pollen sample investigations, salinisation of earth studies,
and the like which might justify such assumptions.
The production of scrolls has been assumed by Stegemann, Pfann and many
others, and this is unquestionably a logical assumption, provided that the
DSS actually have some connexion with the Qumran settlement site. But in my
view this requires proof. In furtherance of this, one might ask whether
there was sufficient grazing land in the region to enable the raising of
small-cattle such as sheep and goats. After all, it is self-evident to
anyone who has experienced the climate of the region that vegetation cover
is not present all year near the site. Hence, if there was small-cattle
farming in Qumran, the herds will necessarily have been led to more
fruitful regions during the dry season, meaning that at least to this
extent Qumran will have taken part in the wider society of Syria-Palestine.
Alternatively, if the skins were provided by purchases from itinerant
small-cattle nomads, then we would expect the DNA picture of the skins
studied to be quite diverse. So this question is in principle soluble,
though I doubt the DNA analysis of the DSS is as yet so far advanced that
we can answer this question definitively.