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orion Lisan cemetery with some similarities to Qumran
Konstantinos D. (Dino) Politis of the British Museum conducted salvage
excavations at a very interesting site in the Lisan peninsula in Jordan.
Dr. Politis has written a report, which is to appear in Annual of the
Department of Antiquities of Jordan (1998), and kindly gave permission to
quote it. This unusual cemetery, which he characterizes as Nabataean, is in
some respects similar to the Essene cemetery at Kh. Qumran.
Located at Kh. Qazone, south of Mazra'a in the Lisan (tongue) Dead
Sea peninsula, these burials became known following road work. "Over 3,500
robbed-out shaft graves were counted which were oriented north-south."
Local tomb-robbers were questioned. In addition to retreival of (meagre)
grave goods, including several textiles, surface collection and a survey
were conducted. 24 graves were investigated in detail and 20 excavated.
Surface finds belonged "to the 1st-2nd century A.D.," and pottery of the
same period found at a site to the north, in Mazra'a, may relate to the
settlement which used this cemetery.
As at Qumran, the head was placed at the south. They were single
burials (not groups), male, female, and children, with no reinterments.
Often the shaft was undercut to one side, with a secondary covering for
that niche. A cross-section drawing closely resembles those available for
Qumran (e.g., R. de Vaux, RB 1953; R. Hachlili, Rev. de Qumran 1993; J.-B.
Humbert, Fouilles de Khirbet Qumran, 1994; and reports of smaller numbers
at Beit Safafa, SW of Jerusalem, and Ein Ghuweir).
Dissimilarities from Kh. Qumran include the presence not only of
cloth, but leather shrouds in some cases. Further, in 5 of the many robbed
tombs were found "funerary stelae...four of which had engraved rectangular
signs (_betyles_ or 'Dusares blocks')" and one with an inscription, in
Greek, "Afseni the pretty one."
The (aniconic) Dusares blocks suggest Nabataean influence. On the
other hand, these burials are apparently not typical of those at known
Nabataean sites. The similarity, in many respects, of these careful
interments, manifesting a presumably intentional pattern, with those at
Qumran raises questions of influence in an evidently-shared practice. Kh.
Qumran appears, by and large, to be earlier than Kh. Qazone. It may be
worth noting that there are indications of Essenes and/or Ossenes east of
the Dead Sea and the Jordan, including in the post 70 A.D. period, e.g., in
Epiphanius (Panarion). Nabataean religion was syncretistic and changed
over time. Excavations at the settlement at Mazra'a would appear to be a
Again, thanks to Dr. Politis.