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orion ostracon archaeology context again
A recent article on the much-discussed Qumran ostracon described the
archaeological context of the find mistakenly. Philip R. Callaway, "A
Second Look at Ostracon No. 1 from Khirbet Qumran," Qumran Chronicle vol. 7
no. 3/4 (December 1997 [actually printed and mailed in 1998]), 145-70.
Philip Callaway makes other observations which are unrelated to the
issue of archaeological context and dating, so they should be evaluated
separately on their merits. But much of the article rests on an incorrect
account of the excavation led by Prof. James Strange.
On page 156, Callaway quotes an e-mail message from Strange;
Callaway added two bracketed remarks, the first of which is wrong.
Here is the p.156 quote: "The excavators [de Vaux and crew] had
excavated straight down into virgin soil in the center of the terrace and
dumped beside the east wall. When cleaning up the soil, the volunteers
[Strange's team] were sweeping and scraping lightly with trowels beside the
same outside wall of the ruin. The idea was to remove every last trace of
the intrusive soil originating from the middle of the terrace. One
volunteer heard the clink of his trowel on a sherd, picked it up, and saw
writing. The sherd--and others--therefore came from the top layer of the
trench left by Pere de Vaux when he excavated outside the wall."
Callaway's "[de Vaux and crew]" is wrong; the reference is to 1996
excavators looking for an underground opening which technical readings had
suggested, as Strange described on orion long ago, in 1996. In Callaway's
article several further mistaken statements on the archaeology follow, and
these are used to propose a Second Revolt period dating.
Prof. Strange has further described the excavation on orion
(forwarded on 15 August [with a correction] and 2 Sept 1997) to correct a
previous misunderstanding. The ostracon was not found in modern dump, but
in hard-packed soil--soil in which no pottery later than period II was
Even with all the discussion about whether "yahad" does or does not
appear in line 8 of this unskilled Herodian-period draft deed of gift, the
text still has its closest parallels in the year two conveyance of property
as known from Josephus on Essenes and from Serek hayahad.