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orion-list Orion, Qumran skeletons/gender Summary

There are 4 series of graves excavated by de Vaux.

"main" cemetery      12+19-2 = 29*  individuals involved = 31
"north" cemetery           2    2                           2
"secondary" cemetery       6    6                           6
southern cemetery          4    4                           4
                          ===  ===                         ===
Totals                         41                          43

* First series of 19 graves minus 2 in "north" cemetery.  Of these, 2 in
the main cemetery were excavated in 1949, and 9, including the two in the
"north" cemetery, were excavated in 1951. Eight (8) more were excavated in
1953. Together with these, there is a second series of 12 graves,
excavated in 1956, apparently with G. Kurth on site, reporting gender
immediately, so that De Vaux recorded it in his notes. These were all
males, a/c to Kurth.

Of those whose gender is reported by de Vaux in REVUE BIBLIQUE articles
summarized in the German edition of his excavation notes, there are 20
skeletons of males in the various graveyards north of the Wadi Qumran,
including the 13 males of 12 graves identified by Kurth and the 8 males of
19 graves identified in his earliest articles, without attribution. Also,
in his 1953 article de Vaux mentions the theory of the Essene monastery
advanced by Dupont-Sommer, as well as the existence of "plusiers
femmes"--several women--among Tombes 3-8 of the "main" cemetery (Revue
Biblique (60) 1953: 103). 

These two series include reports of fragments of jars, as well as a
lamp, in Tombes (T) 4, 14, 15, 23, 26 (lamp), 27, 30. All of these are in
the "main" cemetery. 


So, as much as we can tell, as de Vaux first saw it, he did not *know*
what gender some of the corpses were, and thought some were female.


S. H. Steckoll not only challenged de Vaux's adoption of the Essene
monastery interpretation, but also excavated more graves at Qumran. 
Steckoll, in REVUE DE QUMRAN 6 (1968) 323-344 gives once more a report on
the grave excavated in 1873 by Captains C.R. Condor, Captain H. H.
Kitchener, Drake, and Clermont-Ganneau, before any knowledge of scrolls
and/or community at Qumran had surfaced in the scholarly community

Steckoll himself excavated an additional 10 graves, so the
total excavated is 52. With the assistance of two anthropologists, N.
Haas and H. Nathan, he determined the gender and, in some cases,

The first two excavations were in the area between the "main" cemetery and
the settlement; one grave (the first) lay inside the perimeter established
by Jewish halakhah (of perhaps later date) for purity in proximity to

The second was apparently the skeleton of someone buried in a sitting
rather than prone position. The first, however, was actually *not a grave,
since no corpse was found. Steckoll then excavated 8 graves in the "main"
cemetery area. One represented an adult and a child of about two years
old. Haas and/or Nathan determined that the adult was female.

Of the nine corpses in the "main" cemetery, then, three were women, one
was an infant, and five were male, according to Haas and Nathan, per
Steckoll's report.
Summarizing a different way, as I take it Joe Zias is doing, in the main
cemetery there are 31 individuals excavated by de Vaux, and 9 excavated by
Steckoll. All of these are males, Zias seems to be saying, including
the adult (female) with child excavated by Steckoll. All are Jewish
burials, because there are no grave goods--except for the occasional pot
or lamp.

One basis for his claim is his distrust of Haas's examination of the
crucified male found in a cave burial, and reported by Zias in
Charlesworth, Ed. JESUS AND THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS, Anchor Bible Reference
Library, 1992. Another basis for Zias's claim that all of the buried
corpses are male is the dismissal of the skeleton of Tombe 7, with its
wide pelvis, as not possibly female because it is extremely tall, based on
his random survey of ancient corpses from other excavations in the Land.


This summary includes all of the primary excavation reports by de Vaux and
Steckoll, as well as the French publication of de Vaux's notes, FOUILLES
DE KHIRBET QUMRA^N ET DE AI"N FESHKHA by Jean-Baptiste Humbert and Alain
Chambon in 1994, as well as a chart faxed to me by James Strange from the
German publication of de Vaux's notes, which contains appendixes with many
summary tables of the data. The German edition is edited by Ferdinand
Rohrhirsch and Bettina Hofmeir, published in 1996, and titled Die
Ausgrabungen von Qumran und En Feschcha / Roland de Vaux.

I have no conclusions about the presence or absence of women at Qumran. 
That's one reason for not publishing my research. I disagree with Joe Zias
that he has established that the burials in the so-called main cemetery
represent only men, on a number of grounds, pending my reading of his
article as well as the article by the German investigators whose names
momentarily escape me in the unavailable June 1999 REVUE DE QUMRAN.

Bases for disagreement include one adult-child burial reported by
Steckoll, the presence of grave goods (pottery, lamp), de Vaux's early
report of "plusiers femmes," and de Vaux's report of various styles of
grave in his first series, through 1953. However, I have far fewer
questions about Joe Zias's characterization of the east-west burials of
the "secondary" cemetery. This is taking the transport of the bones to
Germany as verifiable beyond much doubt.

If the transport of the bones is plausible, in time, perhaps, DNA testing
of the bones will be possible, and gender-identification can be done with
more certainty. 

Sigrid Peterson  UPenn  petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu

For private reply, e-mail to petersig@ccat.sas.upenn.edu (Sigrid Peterson)
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