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Re: orion-list Qumran skeletons/gender
Well, nothing like calling for information from Joe Zias in a post,
finishing it, and posting it, only to see that the import of one's
question has been answered by Joe Zias himself in the time I was composing
my post! Welcome to the discussion.
And I promised to respond to Greg Doudna's question separately:
> 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?
This is what I understand Joe Zias to have been saying in his presentation
at AAR/SBL. He asks us now to wait for an article which will be out soon.
> Or is the Essene
> interpretation itself driving the interpretation of the data?
This was Joe Zias's punchline in his presentation, racing past the
existing fortress/villa/refugees/army hypotheses without critically
examining them in the light of the new evidence he presented. Presumably
that will be remedied in written treatments.
On the Essene interpretation driving the interpretation of the data, it
would seem so to me as a psychologist. The evidence is slim, and of course
open to other interpretations from other specialties. De Vaux, in the
published notes (Humbert), begins the sequence of exploration of the
Qumran site by noting spindles as well as spindle whorls at (as I recall)
two loci. Later, he is less specific in terminology, and calls
spindle-like cylindrical turned objects (I think, from reading the report
only, not seeing the objects) "un tigue." Several items later, as the
examination of the site progressed, are called "discs," which might, it
seems to me, have been spindle whorls. Without examining the objects side
by side, I couldn't be certain.
If they are indeed the same sorts of things given different terms as de
Vaux's hypothesis of an Essene monastery begins to drive his understanding
of the dig, then it would seem that as you suggest, Greg, the hypothesis
drives the results, including the way in which the skeletons are analyzed
and reported. In that way, de Vaux was not unlike most archaeologists of
his era. Or some of the rest of us, when we prepare courses that have to
take a trajectory through a mass of data that's completely unfamiliar to
But the real question is, supposing that de Vaux's reports of the
archaeological excavation of Qumran had a) the bias of the 50's and 60's
that undercounted women in examining skeletons, and b) a gradually
accruing bias favoring the Essene monastery hypothesis, is it possible to
use these data in a reliable way to tell us something about the settlement
at Qumran and its people, at the turn of the Era?
> Greg Doudna
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