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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 
the clarification.

Greg Doudna

For private reply, e-mail to Greg Doudna <gd@teol.ku.dk>
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