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orion-list Qumran skeletons/gender

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On the claim that beads found with women skeletons at Qumran
are not known at any Jewish burial sites, Hachlili and Killebrew,
PEQ 115 (1983): 116 refer to c. 1st century CE finds of beads
with women skeletons in coffins at Jericho.  That is right next
to Qumran, same era.  K. Yassine in _Tell El Mazar I. Cemetery
A_, 1984: 94 notes "bracelets and anklets like the ones found in
the [c. 7th-5th century BCE] cemetery were widespread in
Til Barsib...Byblos...Deve Huyuk..."  A table running from pp.
114 to 131 entitled "Bead analysis" gives an extensive 
inventory of types, colors, materials, and varieties of beads
found with skeletons.  

On the distinct and key issue of the identification of gender 
of skeletons in the "main", well-ordered area of the cemetery, 
the existing, published data by my count has these numbers.  
(These include both the recent Rohrer-Ertl et al identifications
plus ones reported by Steckoll from Haas and Nathan, and 
are drawn from the chart at Rohrer-Ertl et al, RQ 73 [1999].)

   De Vaux (Kurth) and Rohrer-Ertl, 18 male, 2 female
   Steckoll (Haas and Nathan), 6 male, 4 female

In addition, there is 1 additional female skeleton identification
in the "main" cemetery but it has a question mark in the 
Rohrer-Ertl chart.  It was considered a little unusual by 
de Vaux because it was "tall"--160 cm--and at the edge 
of the main part of the cemetery.  (Nevertheless its pelvis was
very wide, giving the female identification.)  Since it is given a
question mark in the most recent accounnting of Rohrer-Ertl I
do not include it here.  The totals as reported (without question
marks) are 24 male and 6 female.  (And this is the "main" 
central part, the undisputed part of the cemetery, not 
outlying extensions which have more women skeletons and 
which Zias proposes to identify as modern Bedouin.)  If this 
incidence is extrapolated to the c. 1000 (?) total graves in the
"main" cemetery this means about 200 women would be in 
the Qumran "main" cemetery.  Has Zias given good grounds
to suppose these c. 200 women should be removed from 
the "main" cemetery--not counting the disputed exensions?

The Steckoll-reported identifications (note that de Vaux's
criticisms of Steckoll, so damaging rhetorically, are 
irrelevant here; for Steckoll was simply reporting data 
from scientists) as well as some of the older de Vaux (Kurth)
data were made under "old" methods of determining gender. 
Since then there have been reports that the methods in the 
1950's and 1960's underreported the incidence of women 
skeletons worldwide by some factor.  This led to corrections
in methods, and the gender identifications done by 
Rohrer-Ertl et al are done by the most current methods of 
the 1980's and 1990's.  According to Joan Taylor, who has 
been spending this semester in Copenhagen on sabbatical,
the German scientists stand behind their findings that two 
of de Vaux's "male" skeletons in the "main" part of the 
cemetery are actually certainly female.  

(I might add that the table of data published by Rohrer-Ertl
et al indeed shows no significant difference in height between
their two new female skeletons--159 cm and 163--and the 
range of heights of the male skeletons, which range from 159
to 177.  But, although I am no expert on this, 
I fail to see how this can be much of an argument at all 
concerning the accuracy or inaccuracy of a specific 
identification.  For do not individual men and women have 
a range of heights?  Would it not be a fallacy to apply an 
"average" as a negative argument in these individual cases?)

The question is: are all of the published women skeleton 
identifications in the Qumran cemetery either incorrect
or to be removed from assocation with use of the
site c. 2000 years ago--giving an objective, startling 
agreement with the classical male-only Essenes of 
Josephus, Philo, and Pliny?  Or is the Essene 
interpretation itself driving the interpretation of the data?

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