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orion-list Qumran skeletons/gender
Thank you very much F. Garcia Martinez! This is all very
interesting. The separation of the side cemeteries (Bedouin,
recent) from the well-ordered "main" cemetery (presumably
contemporary with habitation of the buildings, i.e. ancient)
certainly will give new information for discussion, if Zias's
argument holds up.
Of particular interest is the mention of the radiocarbon dating
c. 200 years old. Taylor's article reports an attempt to radiocarbon
date some bones from Qumran skeletons that was unsuccessful.
To get a date on bone requires collagen which is extracted, and in
dry climates bones frequently have lost all their collagen, meaning
they cannot be dated. Even before Taylor's report of an actual
failure to get a date I have been told that the chances of being able
to carbon date any bones from Qumran were slim for this very
reason. Based on this report maybe a lab was able to get a date,
but one will want to see the published data, and particularly
whether we are talking a single measurement or several.
Most important of all, however, is exactly to which outlying
grave or graves the radiocarbon date and the other points raised
by Zias, apply. I am looking at Humbert and Chambon 1994 now
as well as the April 1999 Revue de Qumran Rohrer-Ertl et al report.
The "southern extension" cemetery has mostly east-west
orientation tombs, in contrast to almost all north-south orientation
everywhere else. The figure of 40 cm depth which is less depth
than the main cemetery appears in Hum/Cham at Tomb 35
which is one of the east-west oriented tombs in this southern
extension group. There is a mention of a bracelet on the right
ankle of a woman in Tomb 32 but this is also one of the east-west
tombs in this same southern extension. Now it may be that this
particular group of graves--5 of 6 excavated which were east-
west--are different from the rest of the cemetery, which are
almost all north-south. But this would only confirm one specific
cluster of graves is different from the others, which is already
visually apparent in the Hum/Cham drawing on p. 214 showing
the east-west orientations of all but 1 of the tombs dug at this
location. The question of interest is whether Zias has offered
cause or grounds to remove any of the north-south orientation
tombs from other areas of the cemetery as being of relevance to
the c. 2000-years ago habitations at the site.
On the matter of the genders of the skeletons, in the big foldout
chart in Rohrer-Ertl et al, two formerly "masculine" skeleton
identifications, at Tombs 22 and 24-II, have been identified by
recent expert studies as feminine. Apparently Zias disputes
these new conclusions, and this will be a technical issue for
experts to sort out. The fact that Zias may be on very solid
ground on his argument for a Bedouin and recent dating of the
east-west tombs in the southern extension cluster appears to
be an entirely distinct issue from the correctness and
accuracy of the two new female identifications in the "main"
Of course it will be a clearer picture when Zias's article is
available in print. Again, thanks very much G. Martinez for
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